Earthquake Activity Around the World


Following the recent spate of earthquakes in California, which were two of the biggest earthquakes in decades and resulted in a huge surface rupture, as detected by satellite images, I was interested in visualizing earthquake activity, not just by geographical region, but also through time.

For the purpose of this post, I only considered earthquakes measured by the Richter scale or Local Magnitud ML from the Global catalog of earthquakes by the Humanitarian Data Exchange.

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Worldwide Earthquake Activity Through Time

  • We can see clearly enough that most of the higher-magnitude earthquakes occur along the Pacific Ring of Fire - the west coast of NA & SA, and along the western pacific coast, a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and plate movements.

  • The Western Pacific Coast seems to be the most consistently affected area through time.

  • It would be interesting to compare this data - particularly the quakes happening far out at sea - with tsunami activity along the coasts.

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Earthquakes with Magnitude Greater Than or Equal To 8

  • Level 8 on the Richter Scale is defined as severe - Major damage to buildings, structures likely to be destroyed. Will cause moderate to heavy damage to sturdy or earthquake-resistant buildings. Damaging in large areas. Felt in extremely large regions.

  • We can see from the map above that these do not occur often.

  • Nearly all occur along the Pacific Ring of Fire.

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Number of Earthquakes Each Year per Magnitude

  • The number of earthquakes seems fairly consistent through time.

  • The number of extreme magnitude quakes has increased in the last 20 years.

  • Only 2 earthquakes in our timeline have breached 9.0 on the Richter scale:

    • The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.
    • The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan.
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Total Number of Earthquakes > 6 Magnitude Through Time

  • From about 1990, we see a dramatic increase in the number of higher-magnitude earthquakes, and then again from late 1990's onwards.

Tectonic Plate Map

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Richter Scale Reference

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