The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has provided us with some interesting observations about why the February 2011 earthquake in the Christchurch, New Zealand area did so much more damage that the one that occurred in September 2010. Check out their satellite image showing the varying severity levels of the quake as well as their explanation about how time of day and location are often even more powerful factors in resulting damage than the severity on the Richter scale–visit http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=49586&src=eorss-nh. Note that in addition to the shaking and movement of the earth, in these quakes, there is also “liquefaction” of the soil when groundwater and earth are forced together, which creates yet another kind of impact on the surrounding areas.
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