A lot of folks have been asking lately…why so many earthquakes? The answer may actually surprise you! We’re not experiencing above normal seismic activity, and in reality, the number of earthquakes may be decreasing. Here’s an article from the USGS (United States Geological Survey) which explains it all.
Although it may seem that we are having more earthquakes, earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater have remained fairly constant throughout this century and, according to our records, have actually seemed to decrease in recent years. 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 that 4,000 stations and the data now comes in rapidly from these stations by telex, computer 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 many small earthquakes which were undetected in earlier years, and we are able to locate earthquakes more rapidly.
The NEIC now locates about 12,000 to 14,000 earthquakes each year or approximately 50 per day. Also, because of the improvements in communications and the increased interest in natural disasters, the public now learns about more earthquakes. According to long-term records (since about 1900), we expect about 18 major earthquakes (7.0 – 7.9) and one great earthquake (8.0 or above) in any given year. However, let’s take a look at what has happened in the past 32 years, from 1969 through 2001, so far. Our records show that 1992, and 1995-1997 were the only years that we have reached or exceeded the long-term average number of major earthquakes since 1971. In 1970 and in 1971 we had 20 and 19 major earthquakes, respectively, but in other years the total was in many cases well below the 18 per year which we may expect based on the long-term average.
A temporal increase in earthquake activity does not mean that a large earthquake is about to happen. Similarly, quiescence, or the lack of seismicity, does not mean a large earthquake is going to happen.
And just because we live in the upper Midwest, doesn’t mean we don’t get to experience the shakes and quakes! It was just this last February when a 4.3-magnitude earthquake was centered about 50 miles north of Chicago…felt by most of southern Wisconsin.
Meteorologist LeAnn Lombardo
Posted under Hometown Weather
This post was written by llombardo on April 19, 2010