Using data from the United States Geological Survey, the epicenters of all the world’s major earthquakes from 1956–2022 have been mapped below.
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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).
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.
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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 Zones||Tectonic Plates||Locations|
|Ring of Fire||Pacific, North American, Philippine, Juan de Fuca, Cocos, Nazca||Rim of the Pacific Ocean.|
|Alpide Belt||Eurasian, African, Arabian, Indian||Java to Sumatra, through the Himalayas, west to the Mediterranean, and out into the Atlantic.|
|Mid-Atlantic Ridge||North American, Eurasian, South American, African||Deep 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.
|1||Valdivia Earthquake||9.5||Bio-Bio, Chile||1960-05-22|
|2||Good Friday Earthquake||9.2||Alaska, U.S.||1964-03-28|
|3||2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake||9.1||Sumatra, Indonesia||2004-12-26|
|4||Tohoku Earthquake||9.1||Honshu, Japan||2011-03-11|
|5||1952 Severo-Kurilsk Earthquake||9.0||Kamchatka, Russia||1952-11-04|
|6||Maule Earthquake||8.8||Bio-Bio, Chile||2010-02-27|
|7||1906 Ecuador–Colombia Earthquake||8.8||Ecuador||1906-01-31|
|8||Rat Islands Earthquake||8.7||Alaska, U.S.||1965-02-04|
|9||Assam-Tibet Earthquake||8.6||Assam, Tibet||1950-08-15|
|10||2012 Indian Ocean Earthquake||8.6||Sumatra, Indonesia||2012-04-11|
|11||Nias Earthquake||8.6||Sumatra, Indonesia||2005-03-28|
|12||1957 Andreanof Islands Earthquake||8.6||Alaska, U.S.||1957-03-09|
|13||Unimak Island Earthquake, Alaska||8.6||Alaska, U.S.||1946-04-01|
|14||1938 Banda Sea Earthquake||8.5||Banda Sea||1938-02-01|
|15||1922 Vallenar Earthquake||8.5||Chile-Argentina Border||1922-11-11|
|16||1963 Kuril Islands Earthquake||8.5||Kuril Islands, Russia||1963-10-13|
|17||1923 Kamchatka Earthquake||8.4||Kamchatka, Russia||1923-02-03|
|18||September 2007 Sumatra Earthquakes||8.4||Sumatra, Indonesia||2007-09-12|
|19||Peru Earthquake||8.4||Southern Peru||2001-06-23|
|20||1933 Sanriku Earthquake||8.4||Honshu, Japan||1933-03-02|
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.