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Are Earthquakes Increasing?


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Are Earthquakes Increasing?

Many Christians are asking, are earthquakes increasing as Christ said they would just before he returned in Matthew 24:7?  The answer is both no and yes. The number of large earthquakes has averaged around 20 for the past 100 years. But averages hide variation. Then number of annual earthquakes about 7.0 had declined in the 1970s and 80s and is now dramatically increasing. However, the number was  much higher in the early 1900s and the 1940s. More important, perhaps, that the number of large quakes is the number of deaths and damage caused by earthquakes. This has increased alarmingly in recent years and causes us to focus on earthquakes. Does this fulfill the prophecy of Christ? Time will tell. The following information is from the USGS, with their links included.
Q: Why are we having so many earthquakes? Has earthquake activity been increasing?

A: 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 35 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 28 years, from 1969 through 1996. Our records show that 1992 is the first time 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. Starting about 1990, the number has increased sharply to what it was in the late 1960s.

The following is a list of earthquakes during this period:

Major earthquakes Great earthquakes
1969 - 15
1970 - 20
1971 - 19
1972 - 15
1973 - 13
1974 - 14
1975 - 14
1976 - 15
1977 - 11
1978 - 16
1979 - 13
1980 - 13
1981 - 13
1982 - 10
1983 - 14
1984 - 08
1985 - 13
1986 - 05
1987 - 11
1988 - 08
1989 - 06
1990 - 12
1991 - 11
1992 - 23
1993 - 15
1994 - 13
1995 - 22
1996 - 21
1997 - 20
1998 - 16
1999 - 20
1969 - 1
1970 - 0
1971 - 1
1972 - 0
1973 - 0
1974 - 0
1975 - 1
1976 - 2
1977 - 2
1978 - 1
1979 - 0
1980 - 1
1981 - 0
1982 - 1
1983 - 0
1984 - 0
1985 - 1
1986 - 1
1987 - 0
1988 - 0
1989 - 1
1990 - 0
1991 - 0
1992 - 0
1993 - 1
1994 - 2
1995 - 3
1996 - 1
1997 - 0
1998 - 2
1999 - 2

USGS Link for Data Source

And a plot of the above data (red-major EQs; blue-great EQs):


A further breakdown by the USGS reveals this information:

TABLE 1 - Frequency of Occurrence of Earthquakes
Based on Observations since 1900

 

Descriptor Magnitude Average Annually
Great 8 and higher 1
Major 7 - 7.9 18
Strong 6 - 6.9 120
Moderate 5 - 5.9 800
Light 4 - 4.9 6,200 (estimated)
Minor 3 - 3.9 49,000 (estimated)
Very Minor < 3.0 Magnitude 2 - 3: about 1,000 per day
Magnitude 1 - 2: about 8,000 per day

USGS Link for Data Source

TABLE 2 - Number of Earthquakes Worldwide for 1990 - 2000
Located by the US Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center

 

Magnitude 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
 
8.0 to 9.9 0 0 0 1 2 3 1 0 2 0 1
7.0 to 7.9 12 11 23 15 13 22 21 20 14 23 7
6.0 to 6.9 115 105 104 141 161 185 160 125 113 123 71
5.0 to 5.9 1635 1469 1541 1449 1542 1327 1223 1118 979 1106 497
4.0 to 4.9 4493 4372 5196 5034 4544 8140 8794 7938 7303 7042 2930
3.0 to 3.9 2457 2952 4643 4263 5000 5002 4869 4467 5945 5521 1958
2.0 to 2.9 2364 2927 3068 5390 5369 3838 2388 2397 4091 4201 1380
1.0 to 1.9 474 801 887 1177 779 645 295 388 805 715 308
0.1 to 0.9 0 1 2 9 17 19 1 4 10 5 2
No Magnitude 5062 3878 4084 3997 1944 1826 2186 3415 2426 2096 771
 
Total 16612 16516 19548 21476 19371 21007 19938 19872 21688 20832 *7925
 
Estimated
Deaths
51916 2326 3814 10036 1038 7949 419 2907 8928 22711 155
USGS Link for Data Source

The number of earthquakes per year has was significantly greater than 20 in the first 10 year of the twentieth century, then declined to about 20 about 1910s. The number per year declined to the teens in the 1920s and early 30s when it rapidly increased again to the upper 20 and 30 per year in the later 1930s and 40s. After 1950 the number per year gradually with much variation to the mid teens until the 1990s when it suddenly increased again. Are we going to see a repeat of the late 1930s and 40s again when the number of earthquakes per year increased to the upper 20, 30 and even 40 per year? No one knows.
NUMBER OF EARTHQUAKES PER YEAR MAGNITUDE 7.0 OR GREATER
		1900 - 1999

	1900	13	1930	13	1960	22	1990	13
	1901	14	1931	26	1961	18	1991	10
	1902	 8	1932	13	1962	15	1992N	23
	1903 	10	1933	14	1963	20	1993M	16
	1904	16	1934	22	1964	15	1994	15
	1905	26	1935	24	1965	22	1995E	25
	1906	32	1936	21	1966	19      1996    22
	1907	27	1937	22	1967	16      1997    20
	1908	18	1938	26	1968	30      1998    16
	1909	32	1939	21	1969	27      1999    23
	1910	36	1940	23	1970	29
	1911	24	1941	24	1971	23
	1912	22	1942	27	1972	20
	1913	23	1943*	41	1973	16
	1914	22	1944	31	1974	21
	1915	18	1945	27	1975	21
	1916	25	1946	35	1976$	25
	1917	21	1947	26	1977	16
	1918	21	1948	28	1978	18
	1919	14	1949	36	1979	15
	1920	 8	1950	39	1980	18
	1921	11	1951	21	1981	14
	1922	14	1952	17	1982	10
	1923	23	1953	22	1983	15
	1924	18	1954	17	1984	 8
	1925	17	1955	19	1985	15
	1926	19	1956	15	1986#	 6
	1927	20	1957	34	1987	11
	1928	22	1958	10	1988	 8
	1929	19	1959	15	1989	 7

	Total 1900-1997 = 1960 events = 20 per year

	* Most active year since 1900
	# Least active year since 1900
	$ Year with most people killed since 1900 (295,000 - 699,000;
	  dominated by the Tangshan quake with casualty estimate from
	  255,000 - 655,000)
	N First full year of operation on NSN/digital recording system
	M Year moment magnitude quotes were introduced
	E Year energy magnitude quotes were introduced

Statistics were compiled from the Earthquake Data Base System of the
U.S. Geological Survey, National Earthquake Information Center, Golden CO
    
USGS Link for Data Source