Asked by: Scott Connolly, Exeter
Propelled by the heat of the Earth’s interior, the Eurasian plate beneath the UK is moving in a westerly direction by around 10mm per year and is riddled with fault lines. These often slip slightly, triggering tremors detectable only with specialist equipment. Around once a decade, however, there’s a bigger shift, resulting in a quake that makes the headlines.
This is why, in February, parts of southwest England and Wales were rocked by the strongest earthquake in a decade. By global standards, it was pretty weak. It measured just 4.4 on the Richter scale and caused no major damage, yet it still shocked many. After all, the UK is far from the edge of any of the tectonic plates which make up the Earth’s crust, and where most quakes occur. Another earthquake in 2008 was widely felt across the country and and was one of the strongest earthquakes to hit the UK in recent years, registering at 5.2 on the Richter scale.
Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.