List Of World’s Major Earthquakes From 1956‒2022

Using data from the United States Geological Survey, the epicenters of all the world’s major earthquakes from 1956–2022 have been mapped below.

Mapping All The World's Major Earthquakes From 1956‒2022 1

Since the beginning of time, large earthquakes have happened, yet their observation and effects have not always been felt fairly around the world.

Two earthquakes occurred in Turkey on February 6 close to the Syrian border. Both surpassed a 7 on the Richter scale, and the total number of fatalities is now approaching 20,000.

The location of these earthquakes is not surprising when considering the history of recent and earlier earthquakes, as outlined below. PythonMaps, the project’s creator, plotted earthquake epicenters between 1956 and 2022 that scored a 4.5 or higher on the Richter scale using data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Mapping All The World's Major Earthquakes From 1956‒2022 2

Tectonic Plate Movement and Earthquakes

It is simple to see on the map where the earthquake activity is concentrated relative to the tectonic plate boundaries.

The lithosphere, also known as the upper crust, is made up of these enormous moving slabs of rock that fit together almost like jigsaw pieces. The crust, however, splits and folds as the edges of tectonic plates meet, slide against, and move apart from one another, resulting in earthquakes.

The majority of the earthquakes depicted on this map, along with the Philippine Plate (south of Japan) and the Nazca Plate, occur near the boundaries of the seven major tectonic plates (west of South America).

Here is a list of the places on earth that are most vulnerable to earthquakes, per the USGS.

Earthquake ZonesTectonic PlatesLocations
Ring of FirePacific, North American, Philippine, Juan de Fuca, Cocos, NazcaRim of the Pacific Ocean.
Alpide BeltEurasian, African, Arabian, IndianJava to Sumatra, through the Himalayas, west to the Mediterranean, and out into the Atlantic.
Mid-Atlantic RidgeNorth American, Eurasian, South American, AfricanDeep underwater in the Atlantic, and directly underneath Iceland.

Academics claim that several faults were involved in the recent earthquakes that occurred in Türkiye, which is a part of the Alpide Belt. The Anatolian Plate, which Turkey rests on, was likely pushed west by the Arabian Plate as it drifted northward into the Eurasian Plate.

The Worst Earthquakes in History

Even though there are earthquakes all around the planet, major earthquakes seem to be even more regionally focused.

These large earthquakes have high magnitude ratings on measures like the Richter scale (ML) and the more recent and widely used moment magnitude scale (Mw). For the Richter scale, each whole number rise roughly equates to a 31.6-fold increase in energy produced because these scales are logarithmic and rapidly ramp up.

These larger earthquakes are concentrated strongly on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, as seen in the map above. Because of the ongoing volcanic activity along this border, which is partly brought on by tectonic plate movement, it is frequently referred to informally as the “Ring of Fire.”

However, there aren’t many red spots, which included earthquakes measuring 9 or above on the Richter scale. According to magnitude, here is a list of the 20 worst earthquakes in recorded history.

RankNameMagnitudeLocationDate (Y-M-D)
1Valdivia Earthquake9.5Bio-Bio, Chile1960-05-22
2Good Friday Earthquake9.2Alaska, U.S.1964-03-28
32004 Indian Ocean Earthquake9.1Sumatra, Indonesia2004-12-26
4Tohoku Earthquake9.1Honshu, Japan2011-03-11
51952 Severo-Kurilsk Earthquake9.0Kamchatka, Russia1952-11-04
6Maule Earthquake8.8Bio-Bio, Chile2010-02-27
71906 Ecuador–Colombia Earthquake8.8Ecuador1906-01-31
8Rat Islands Earthquake8.7Alaska, U.S.1965-02-04
9Assam-Tibet Earthquake8.6Assam, Tibet1950-08-15
102012 Indian Ocean Earthquake8.6Sumatra, Indonesia2012-04-11
11Nias Earthquake8.6Sumatra, Indonesia2005-03-28
121957 Andreanof Islands Earthquake8.6Alaska, U.S.1957-03-09
13Unimak Island Earthquake, Alaska8.6Alaska, U.S.1946-04-01
141938 Banda Sea Earthquake8.5Banda Sea1938-02-01
151922 Vallenar Earthquake8.5Chile-Argentina Border1922-11-11
161963 Kuril Islands Earthquake8.5Kuril Islands, Russia1963-10-13
171923 Kamchatka Earthquake8.4Kamchatka, Russia1923-02-03
18September 2007 Sumatra Earthquakes8.4Sumatra, Indonesia2007-09-12
19Peru Earthquake8.4Southern Peru2001-06-23
201933 Sanriku Earthquake8.4Honshu, Japan1933-03-02

Half of the greatest earthquakes ever recorded have occurred in regions close to Indonesia, Russia, and Chile, all of which are on tectonic plate borders.

Nevertheless, earlier and stronger earthquakes might have occurred but went unreported. The earliest written records, some of which date back nearly three millennia, were kept by earlier civilizations because they lacked the precise means to measure and record them.

Last year, a powerful earthquake shook Taiwan, causing buildings and bridges to collapse. The US Geological Survey first estimated a magnitude of 7.2 but amended it to 6.9, which is still greater than the CWB assessment.

Can We Predict Major Earthquakes?

Scientists are still unable to properly predict where, when, or what magnitude an earthquake will occur, despite the seismograph’s ability to measure both the location and intensity of earthquakes.

They can, however, estimate the likelihood of an earthquake occurring, particularly along fault lines. The “big one,” which happens every 200 to 800 years along the Cascadia subduction zone in North America, is a well-known example.

Being prepared for earthquakes can significantly reduce risk in locations that are situated on fault lines where two plates are colliding.

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