can an earthquake split the earth

Can an earthquake split the earth? Isn’t it a common question, especially considering the immense power of an earthquake?

Throughout the course of human history, the sheer force of earthquakes has never failed to captivate mankind.

These unforeseeable seismic occurrences possess the ability to inflict substantial harm upon both man-made structures and natural environments

But, can an earthquake split the earth in half?

No, an earthquake cannot divide the earth in two, as even the strongest earthquakes lack the energy to trigger such a disaster. 

Understanding Earthquakes and Their Power

understanding earthquakes and their power

Learning about an earthquake is of immense importance, especially when you want to know how powerful it can be.

The rigid outer shell of the earth, called lithosphere, accumulates stress over time and finally releases it, which we call an earthquake.

In technical terms, this phenomenon happens due to the displacement of tectonic plates, which results in immense pressure and stress under the earth.

These plates are responsible for making the uppermost mantle as well as the crust of the earth.

And they are constantly interacting with each other, which releases seismic energy. 

It moves in the form of waves from one part to another and eventually exhibits itself as tremors, which we call earthquakes. 

How Powerful Earthquakes Can Be?

how powerful earthquakes can be

Earthquakes can be extremely devastating, and the extent of damage they cause usually relies heavily on their intensity

Here is a bit about some of the most powerful earthquakes in history: 

19609.5Valdivia, ChileThe strongest earthquake ever. Tsunamis hit Hawaii, Japan, and the Philippines.
19649.2Prince William Sound, AlaskaTsunamis and landslides devastated Anchorage.
20049.1-9.3Sumatra, IndonesiaThe Boxing Day Tsunami killed approximately 230,000 in 14 nations.
20119.0-9.1Tōhoku, JapanTriggered 40.5-meter tsunami waves. Earthquakes and tsunamis caused the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.
19529.0Kamchatka, RussiaCaused damage but no deaths owing to remoteness.

Earthquakes can indeed be extremely powerful and devastating, but can they be powerful enough to split the earth in half? We seriously doubt that! 

Is Africa Splitting into Two Continents?

is africa splitting into two continents

In 2005, a fracture emerged across the arid landscapes of Ethiopia, and it continues to expand at a steady pace of one inch annually.

Scientists have issued a warning that a colossal fissure tearing across Africa is poised to divide the continent and give rise to Earth’s sixth ocean.

A massive island would form along the southeastern coast, resulting in the emergence of a brand new sea spanning from Ethiopia to Mozambique.

The Eastern African Rift, also known as the East African Rift Valley, originated approximately 22 million years ago and has exhibited recent activity. 

Is It Because of Earthquakes?

is it because of earthquake

The mechanism behind it was not completely comprehended at the time, but it occurred due to the movement of two tectonic plates in opposite directions

Recently, a research paper released in June revealed that a substantial release of intensely heated rock originating from the Earth’s core is propelling the formation of the rift.

Fact: It is less likely to happen any time soon, but a new continent may emerge from the regions of Somalia, half of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania. 

Can an Earthquake Split the Earth?

earthquake's potential to split the earth

The perception of apocalyptic earthquakes ripping the earth has been further exaggerated by Hollywood creating vivid images.

But, seriously, can an earthquake potentially divide the Earth into two halves?

There is a widespread misconception that when an earthquake occurs, the ground splits apart, creating fissures where individuals, vehicles, and animals may potentially drown.

The truth is that how the iconic Grand Canyon split apart is completely opposite to the Earth works.

During its motion, the Earth experiences rumblings and vibrations, which can lead to the formation of tiny fissures, but nothing too serious. 

Why Is It Not Possible for an Earthquake to Split the Earth?

why can't an earthquake split the Earth

Here are a few reasons why it is highly unlikely for earthquakes to split the earth into two halves:

The Structure of the Earth

The structure of our planet is intricate and consists of various layers, including:

  • The crust
  • The mantle
  • The outer core
  • The inner core

Here is a bit more to help you understand the role of these layers:

Earth LayerCompositionKey Characteristics
Inner CoreMade of solid ironExtreme pressure keeps it solid even at very high temperatures.
Outer CoreLiquid nickel and ironIts motion is what creates Earth’s magnetic field.
MantleDeep layer 
AsthenospherePartly fluid layerAllows tectonic plates to move more easily and across greater distances.
LithosphereThe crust of the mantleProvides a protective covering for Earth and is itself made up of several plates.

All these layers make it extremely difficult for any earthquake to split the earth in half.   

The Sheer Scale of Earth’s Structure

the sheer scale of earth's structure

Getting information about the planet’s size is important to understand whether or not the earth can be divided by an earthquake.

The diameter of the earth is 7,917.5 miles, and only 1% of this consists of the crust. Now, consider that the most powerful earthquakes happen at least 500 miles deep

It happens when one tectonic plate goes beneath another, and it is especially called the subduction zone.

That represents merely a minuscule portion of the journey towards the Earth’s core.

Hence, it is impossible for an earthquake, as a surface or near-surface event, to penetrate deeply and divide the Earth. 

Energy Requirements

energy requirements

It is impossible to divide the earth into two halves without the presence of immense energy.

The gravitational binding force of the earth is so immense that you would need at least 2.24 x 10^32 joules of energy to create serious damage.

This suggests that a seismic event with the potential to divide the Earth would require a significantly greater magnitude than any previously documented earthquake.

Fact: The 1960 Valdivia earthquake in Chile, which holds the record as the most powerful earthquake ever recorded, released approximately 1 x 10^18 joules of energy. 

Effects of Gravity

effects of gravity

In the highly unlikely event that an earthquake produces an extraordinary level of energy, the idea of the Earth dividing into two distinct entities goes against the principles of physics.

The inherent reunification of each hypothetical half would be driven by the intense gravitational pull they exert on each other.

The planet’s formidable gravitational forces would immediately counteract any significant ‘crack’ or division resulting from such a seismic event.

This impressive self-adjusting mechanism would effectively repair the ‘crack’, safeguarding the Earth’s spherical wholeness.

Fact: The force of gravity on Earth acts as a powerful safeguard, ensuring the planet remains whole even during seismic disruptions. 

Geological Processes

geological processes

The structural integrity of Earth is crucially maintained by the geological processes linked to seismic activities.

Earthquakes and the creation of faults are closely intertwined, as faults are essentially fractures or breaks in the Earth’s crust.

The occurrence of this breakage is due to the tremendous tectonic forces that induce the movement or deformation of the Earth’s crust

The Impact of Deformation of the Earth

The imperfections do not penetrate the Earth, in the same manner, one would effortlessly slice an apple.

Instead, they resemble seams or divisions that facilitate the movement of tectonic plates or segments of the Earth’s crust as they glide alongside one another.

the impact of deformation of the earth

Rather than causing the Earth to fracture, this movement aids in redistributing the built-up geological pressure resulting from the interactions between tectonic plates. 

An Important Consideration

The concept of faults and their role in the movement of the Earth’s crust contradicts the idea of the planet breaking apart.

Absorbing and effectively handling the forces of the ever-changing crust, these entities play a crucial role in averting any potential catastrophic rupture.  

The Elasticity of Earth’s Layer

The plastic-like behavior of the Earth’s deeper layers, such as the asthenosphere, is crucial in its ability to absorb and redistribute seismic stress.

The lithosphere, which consists of the crust and upper mantle, is known for its brittleness and its ability to crack and deform when subjected to considerable stress.

the elasticity of earth's layer

On the other hand, the underlying asthenosphere exhibits characteristics of a highly viscous fluid over long periods of time, primarily because of its elevated temperature and pressure conditions.

This enables it to smoothly adapt and accommodate variations in pressure and temperature.

Fact: The plasticity of the earth's layers allows them to effectively absorb and redistribute the tremendous seismic energy, halting any potential's propagation. 


Can an earthquake split the earth? The notion of an earthquake dividing the Earth into two halves is scientifically improbable for various reasons.

These include the characteristics and depth of seismic events, the Earth’s vast size and composition, and many other factors.

Nonetheless, gaining knowledge about the scientific aspects of earthquakes enables us to unravel their mysteries and enhances our admiration for our captivating planet.