Are Earthquakes Becoming More Frequent?

Written by Dennis Behreandt on Tuesday, 15 March 2011. Posted in Top Stories, U.S.

Earthquake and tsunami in JapanIndonesia, Haiti, Chile, New Zealand, Japan: It seems that around the world, and especially in the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” earthquakes, and sometimes major, devastating earthquakes, are becoming much more frequent than in the past.

This has some people worried. Commentator Roy Nersesian, writing for the Website, argued: “Now the earth is rocking and rolling, possibly in disgust to the pollution and environmental degradation of its surface.” 

He’s not the only one worried about the frequency of quakes and what it may mean. Blogging for the, John Claeys, author of the book Apocalypse 2012: The Ticking of the End Time Clock approaches the issue from a completely different perspective. But he too thinks increased numbers of quakes are a portent. “Perhaps we ought to consider the possibility that their increase is an indicator that creation is ‘groaning’ ever more ‘loudly’ as we come closer to the tribulation period,” he writes.

Are earthquakes actually increasing in number? The answer, with a caveat, is that they are.

The U.S. Geological Survey keeps records on the number of earthquakes. According to the agency’s stats, the number of magnitude 5.0 to 9.9 earthquakes reached 2,117 in 2010. In 2000, by contrast, the number of such quakes recorded by USGS was 1,505.

Chart of Earthquakes from 2000 to 2010.

In the case of that caveat, USGS warns that the increased numbers shouldn’t be taken to mean that the earth is now being ripped apart by seismic activity. According to the agency:

We continue to be asked by many people throughout the world if earthquakes are on the increase. Although it may seem that we are having more earthquakes, earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater have remained fairly constant.

A partial explanation may lie in the fact that in the last twenty years, we have definitely had an increase in the number of earthquakes we have been able to locate each year. This is because of the tremendous increase in the number of seismograph stations in the world and the many improvements in global communications. In 1931, there were about 350 stations operating in the world; today, there are more than 8,000 stations and the data now comes in rapidly from these stations by electronic mail, internet and satellite. This increase in the number of stations and the more timely receipt of data has allowed us and other seismological centers to locate earthquakes more rapidly and to locate many small earthquakes which were undetected in earlier years. The NEIC now locates about 20,000 earthquakes each year or approximately 50 per day. Also, because of the improvements in communications and the increased interest in the environment and natural disasters, the public now learns about more earthquakes.

According to long-term records (since about 1900), we expect about 17 major earthquakes (7.0 - 7.9) and one great earthquake (8.0 or above) in any given year. 

Chart of magitude 7.0 to 7.9 Earthquakes from 2000 to 2010.

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About the Author

Dennis Behreandt

Dennis Behreandt

Dennis Behreandt is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of American Daily Herald.

Copyright © American Daily Herald.

Comments (1)

  • John Braintree

    John Braintree

    03 September 2012 at 20:03 |
    The USGS quotes at the end seem to contradict the thrust of this article's first few paragraphs, do they not?


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