Sample Geology Paper on Effects of earthquake seismic and volcanic activities to the population of Alaska

Effects of earthquake seismic and volcanic activities to the population of Alaska


The paper will discuss the effects of earthquake seismic and volcanic activities to the population of Alaska. The examination will provide an historical background of the earthquake that was accompanied with volcanic eruptions in the region and then elaborate on the impacts that the activities had on the population. In addition, the paper will also discuss the relationship between earthquakes and volcanoes, that is, the occurrence of both and the ensuing impacts to the community and the environment.

Historical background

It is asserted that the Circum-Pacific seismic belt, brushes Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, this has resulted to more earthquakes that have affected about 49 states. Geologists have affirmed that a greater percentage of tremors occur in the belt, this has led to shallow earthquakes in the Alaska region with numerous activities of varying depths being detected annually. “The first earthquake activity was witnessed in 1788 and occurred on Sanak and Shumagin Islands, south of the Alaska Peninsula” ( USGS). As a matter of fact, it was discovered that this event was not accompanied by any volcanic activity though the islands of Sanak and Unga and a part of the Alaska Peninsula were affected by seismic sea waves.

It is opined that earthquakes in Alaska are as a result of the region lying at the center of two seismic zones; the Aleutian Island Arc zone and the zone north of Yakutat Bay (USGS).

The most recent earthquake to occur in Alaska was on January 24, 2016 that measured 7.7 in the Richter scale. The effects of the earthquake comprised of rattling of buildings, disconnection of power and ultimately led to evacuations of people to safer grounds to protect them from explosions and incidences of fire.  According to information provided by Geological survey, the earthquake was felt south of Anchorage town and it was pronounced that no tsunami accompanied the earthquake and that there were reports of injuries.

It is asserted that the Alaskan earthquake that is exceptional in the reminiscence of most happened in the Anchorage area in 1964 (University of Alaska Fairbanks). Owing to the earthquake many of the littoral towns were demolished leading to death and destruction along Hawaii (University of Alaska Fairbanks). Another activity occurred on the Andreanof that registered a magnitude of 8.8 causing serious damage to Adak and Unimak Islands. It is believed that on Adak, the earthquake destroyed two bridges, damaged some housed, and left gaping cracks on the road (University of Alaska Fairbanks).

Moreover, another quake was felt near Huslia on April 7, 1958 and the evidence available supports the assertion that there were pressure on ridges and many lakes were filled with black slimy mud (University of Alaska Fairbanks). On the same year July 9, another earthquake hit the ground at Yakutat registering a magnitude of 7.9; it led to the death of three individuals and two more were reported to be missing and later presumed dead after they were caught in a huge wave generated by the shock in Lituya Bay.

Earthquake seismic and volcanic activity in Alaska

It is asserted that in the past century several tsunamis have been experienced, especially waters off the Alaskan coast. Geologists have established that most of the tidal waves have been produced by seismic activity and that the processes have engendered landslides that have destroyed coastlines (Kontogianni and Stathis 10).

Experts have concurred with the fact that earthquakes that happen near volcanoes are usually not damaging and are typically not even felt (Kontogianni and Stathis 11). They can, in one way or the other occurs in numerous instances that can indicate changes in landscape in or near the volcano. Such changes witnessed are as a result of movement of magma or gas and thus leading to movement of debris or may simply replicate the alteration of stresses in the surrounding region. Research has discovered that the source materials produce seismograms with distinctive signatures that can often be used to evaluate the foundation for the occurrence of an earthquake (Kontogianni and Stathis 15).  

For instance, seismograms from a seismic station on Atka Island on August 6 and 7, 2008 supported the assertion that the sudden appearance of numerous earthquakes was an early sign of an eruption. However, it is important to note that not all throngs of earthquakes designate eruptions; but virtually all eruptions are heralded by vigorous seismic activity. Moreover, it has been discovered that where most active volcanoes are found, also produce high rates of earthquakes that are not volcanic and studies have also pointed out that volcanic activity causes only a small proportion of Alaska’s earthquakes (Kontogianni and Stathis 13).  

It is because of the assertion and need to provide thorough analysis that  the Alaska Earthquake Center has partnered with the Alaska Volcano Observatory to track all notable seismic activity in the state. This is in light of providing frameworks for identification and characterizing earthquakes associated with volcanic processes. The two bodies have designations with the Earthquake Center addressing massive earthquakes and their societal impacts, while the Volcano Observatory emphases on the lesser earthquakes that can befall regions in large numbers near volcanoes.

Scientists are still debating as to whether volcanic activities have occurred shortly after earthquakes for example; an Andean volcano began erupting two days after the occurrence of an earthquake that registered a magnitude of 9.5 in Chile (Swaminathan et al 8). It is important to note that eruptions of mud volcanoes have been witnessed after earthquakes with research opining that mud volcanoes consist of surface mud extrusions that vary in size from meters to several kilometers (Swaminathan et al 10). In most cases, they resemble magmatic volcanoes in appearance but they generally consist of low lying mud flows however, such volcanoes do not comprise magma as they emit mud at significantly cooler temperatures than lava (Swaminathan et al 12). It is asserted that eruptions arising from mud volcanoes can stretch to heights of several hundred meters and comprise of mud and sometimes burning hydrocarbon gasses.


It is affirmed that both earthquake and volcanic activities are natural disasters that affects the surrounding communities when they occur. Environmental experts have confirmed that the social, cultural and economic activities and practices are affected by such natural calamities. Many cities in Alaska including Homer, Hope, Sterling, Valdez and Wasilla had their structures damaged as a result of the tsunami waves from the Great Alaska earthquake  (Koehler et al 22).The earthquake that followed triggered many underground and underwater landslides, avalanches and caused ground liquefaction (Koehler et al 23).  It has been established that the death toll that arose from the natural activity were; 115 in Alaska, 16 in Oregon and California and the monetary loss was estimated to be close to 400 million dollars at the time.

Substantively, the earthquake that occurred on January 24, 2016 damaged Kalifornsky Beach Road, just off the Sterling Highway disrupting transport and communication. It has been established that the economy of a region is anchored on the infrastructure available for instance, roads, telecommunication systems and bridges. This is because the infrastructure facilitates business activities like transport for prompt supply of goods and services. The overwhelming impacts of earthquake coupled with tsunami waves have the ability of sweeping away bridges that provide vital links to other transport networks. In situations that roads and bridges are swept, there is difficulty in supplying goods to reach other locations. In light of the assertion, earthquake and volcanic activities disrupts the economic activities of the individuals in the regions that they occur (Kirianov 17). Moreover, in other towns in Alaska power plants were demolished through the liquefaction process thereby disrupting the running of companies and other business. Experts have agreed to the assertion that power plants are the backbone of many industries and companies in Alaska and that most activities of people heavily depend on power generated from such plants.  

Economically, fishing and tourism are some of the economic activities pursued by the local population in Alaska especially those occupying the coastal towns. Earthquakes and volcanic activities impact negatively on the fishing fleet due to damages of ecological dwellings of fish, the fleet has considerably dropped to 66 percent. This momentously distresses populace relying on fishing as a means of existence and a way of meeting the basic needs (Kirianov 20). Tsunamis arising from earthquake activities destroy fishing boats and hence creating economic burden due to greater request for fiberglass to strengthen the boat yards, since many vessels are lost during the occurrence earthquakes.

Socially and culturally earthquakes and volcanic activities leads to contamination of drinking water from farm fields and is heavily blamed on salt water from oceans and debris arising from such activities. Tourists have mentioned psychological factors as the major reason as to why they do not visit areas prone to earthquakes and volcanic activities. Others have opined that after the occurrence of such natural calamities there is shipping problems between different regions as the earthquakes and volcanic activities are believed to have the capability of changing the level of seabed (University of Alaska Fairbanks).  

Environmental experts have confirmed that people and the entire population are supported by the ecosystem. This means that survival of all inhabitants of the ecosystems is determined by the balance that exists, it is believed that when earthquakes or volcanoes occur they can terminate woodlands and the habitats of many wild animals (Kirianov 21).  In addition, when they occur in places with human settlements then there is loss of farmlands which in return affect agricultural activities. Research has also discovered that lava, ash and gases arising from volcanic activities can generate fires that burn down vegetation in the path in which they flow (USGS). Consequently, poisonous gases like sulphur dioxide generated from such activities have the capability of killing people and animals, on the same note, ashes from volcanic eruptions blocks sunlight needed by plants and trees, mud flows also buries plants.


The paper has established that earthquake seismic and volcanic activities can occur one after the other and can lead to massive destruction of property, structures and even loss of lives. It has also been discovered that earthquake and volcanic activities affects towns and so there is need for city planners and contractors to build strong structures.

Works Cited

Kirianov V.Y. Environmental impacts of volcanic eruptions: Natural and human induced

            hazards. Vol 1. Web.

Koehler, R.D., Carver, G.A., Scher R., Kelly, L.W., White, G., Miller, D.  and Aho J. Pacific

northwest earthquakes and potential effects on Alaska. Alaska seismic hazards safety commission, 2012. Web.

Kontogianni V.A  and  Stathis C. S. Earthquakes and Seismic Faulting: Effects on Tunnels.

Turkish Journal of Earth Sciences (Turkish J. Earth Sci.), Vol. 12, 2003. Web.

Swaminathan K., Chen J., Dimitri K., and Jeroen T. Impact of a large san Andreas fault

earthquake on tall buildings in southern California. Web.

University of Alaska Fairbanks. Alaska earthquake center: Earthquakes near volcanoes. Web.

USGS. Earthquake hazard program: Alaska. Web.