7.2 magnitude earthquake shakes Southern Mexico

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Mexico faults
Mexico lies atop 3 tectonic plates, making it one of the most active places for earthquakes in the world.

This past Friday, a powerful earthquake shook the southern Mexican state of Guerrero. It was rated a 7.2 magnitude on the Richter scale – a measure used to grade the intensity of an earthquake – but luckily, there was no serious damage or any major injuries.

Earthquakes occur when pieces of our planet’s crust called “tectonic plates” slip past each other near fault lines (cracks). The sudden jolt releases a burst of energy that rolls in waves through the surrounding rocks like ripples in a pond, which are measured by the Richter scale. The scale starts at 1, and for every unit of measurement increased, the amount of energy jumps tenfold. For example, a 2.0 magnitude earthquake is 10 times stronger than a 1.0, and a 3.0 is 100 times more powerful than a 1.0 rattle.

The United States Geological Survey considers quakes ranging from 7.0 to 7.9  to be “major” and any 8.0 and above to be “great”. Major earthquakes typically cause moderate damage, and the 7.2 magnitude shake that took place in Mexico could be felt up to 170 miles away in the nation’s capital, Mexico City. Because the Latin American country actually sits on top of three tectonic plates, it’s the most active place for earthquakes in the whole world.

Featured image courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on Flickr. Image of tectonic plates map courtesy of Mikenorton on Wikipedia.