Should We Be Concerned About Increased Major Earthquakes Around the World

Do Recent Earthquakes Herald the End of the World as We Know It

Dozens of earthquakes occur daily around the world, but we only ever hear about the big ones, those that cause major damage, destruction or loss of life.

It does seem though that in the last several years, there have been more than the average number of major earthquakes, as well as some significant volcanic activity around the world.

Should we be concerned about this? Is it related to Global Warming or Climate Change? Is the earth going through some changes that could bring about the end of the world as we know it?

With the date of the Mayan Apocalypse, 21st December 2012 getting ever nearer, talk of the end of the world due to an Act Of God, UFO's, the Earth being hit by a giant meteor, Global Warming and Climate Change, a lot of people are naturally feeling unsettled, even if they believe that like so many other dates for the End Of The World, this one too will pass like any other day.

Maybe it's increased access to information, or maybe it's having viewed movies that depict the End Of The World due to natural events, that unsettle our subconscious mind.

Whatever is the cause, I do believe that a lot of people around the world are somewhat concerned every time they hear of a new earthquake, but is there a pattern of increasing seismic activity behind all of this?

Tuesday 22 February 2011 saw the latest in a series of large earthquakes hit Christchurch on the South Island of New Zealand (see report from the Daily Telegraph), with a magnitude of 6.3 and leaving over 65 people dead, major buildings having collapsed all over the city.

This large quake came only five months after a major quake hit Christchurch in September 2010, with a magnitude of 7.1, causing significant damage.

The latest earthquake, although not as severe in magnitude as the previous one, caused so much damage do to it's proximity to the city and it's shallow depth. Even though buildings in New Zealand, which is on the Pacific Ring Of Fire, are built to withstand earthquakes, many had been weakened by the previous tremors, and due to the shallow depth of the quake they didn't stand a chance.

A friend sent me a disturbing article from The Indy Channel that says scientists in Indiana are curious as to the cause of more than 60 tremors that were felt in Arkansas in the last week. That makes over 700 tremors in Faulkner County alone in the last six months. The tremors seem to increase in number, then die down, but even though the location is not on the New Madrid seismic zone , which runs between Arkansas and Tennessee, and extends further north to become the Wabash Valley seismic zone running between Illinois and Indiana, any change in seismic activity is naturally being studied.

A report from FEMA in November 2008 warned that a major earthquake in the New Madrid zone could result in "the highest economic losses due to a natural disaster in the United States". The last major earthquakes to hit this region however, were in 1811 and 1812.

Some interesting data can be seen on the IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology) site, detailing recent major earthquakes.

The USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) has some interesting data which shows the latest earthquakes around the world with a magnitude of over 5.0 on the Richter Scale. The table does show rather alarming statistics, with 5 events on the 22nd February 2011 (today) so far, 7 on the 21st, and 5 on the 15th February.

They also have a Real Time Map that shows earthquake activity in the last Hour, Day and Week. It's rather interesting to see.

It's not just earthquakes that are alarming though, it's volcanic eruptions, and the world has seen it's fair share of these in the last several years as well.

The USGS Volcano Status map shows the active volcanoes around the USA, and with the exception of one that is showing increased activity in the Bering Strait (Cleveland) and another that is erupting in Hawaii (Kilauea), all is apparently quiet (detailed information is given HERE ).

The Smithsonian also produces a Weekly Volcanic Activity Report which is quite enlightening, and it has details on volcanoes around the world.

The National Geographic published a report on 19 January 2011 that is a little worrying, although nothing might become of it in our lifetime. A lot of people are not aware of this, but under Yellowstone National Park is one of the world's super-volcanoes, which is known to have erupted three times in the past 2.1 million years, each time a thousand times more powerful than the 1980 Mount Saint Helen's eruption.

While the Yellowstone volcano has not erupted in the last 70,000 years, since 2004 the ground above the caldera of the volcano has risen as much as 10 inches (25 centimeters) a year.

Scientists believe that the magma reservoir that is four to six miles below the surface is swelling, and this is causing the land to rise. While they are not concerned that this indicates an imminent eruption, they do know that if this were to happen, it would affect the whole of North America and the ash cloud could signal the end for many living things on our planet.

On the topic of volcanoes and ash clouds, we are all familiar with the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland that erupted in 2010 and caused air travel disruption across much of Europe for months.

The Daily Telegraph published a report on the 8 February 2011 warning that another volcano in Iceland, Bárdarbunga, is showing signs that it could erupt, with an increasing swarm of earthquakes around it.

Due to the lack of measuring devices around this volcano it is difficult to accurately measure the tremors, however they have no doubts that the lava is rising, and the earthquakes to the northeast of the volcano are the strongest that have been recorded in recent years.

Should this volcano erupt, it is likely to dwarf the eruption that occurred last year, and the consequences could be very worrying.

A volcanic eruption of this magnitude which creates a massive ash cloud that lingers in the sky for many months and traverses much of the globe, could bring air travel to a halt in many regions of the world, since the ash affects jet engines, as well as instruments, and causes wear on aircraft parts due to friction.

A massive ash cloud that hovered in the air for months could disrupt satellite communications, affecting world economies, national security, and the decreased amount of sunlight would have a lasting impact on agriculture and food supplies for the population of those areas that were affected.

It has been shown that a previous eruption by a volcano in Iceland in the 1783 caused thousands of deaths in North America due to the extreme cold, as well as millions of deaths in Europe, and it also was instrumental in creating the French Revolution, with millions of peasants in France left starving.

In conclusion, although there is no scientific proof that the number of large earthquakes is set to increase in the next few years, nor that major volcanic eruptions will herald the end of the world as we know it, we do know that at some point there will be another major earthquake, and another volcanic eruption to cause chaos, but when and where these events will occur, nobody knows.

Just watch the birds and animals for the signs. Somehow they know when things are not right, so if the birds suddenly swarm and leave your area, maybe you ought to pack your bags and leave too.

The 11th March earthquake in Japan, which unleashed tsunamis that killed tens of thousands of people was horrific to watch on television, and yet since then there have been numerous aftershocks, many in excess of 5 on the Richter Scale.

A following article asks the question How Many More Earthquakes Can Japan Take given that parts of the island of Honshu are still experiencing serious tremors more than a month after "the big one". The severity level at the Fukushima Power Plant has also been elevated to the maximum, the same as that for Chernobyl. It doesn't look good for the people of Japan.

I wonder who is next, and when?

Sources:

The Daily Telegraph Christchurch Earthquake

The Indy Channel

New Madrid Seismic Zone (Wikipedia)

The Daily Telegraph Iceland Volcano Set To Erupt

IRIS Recent Earthquakes

USGS Recent Earthquakes Magnitude 5.0 And Over

USGS Latest Earthquakes In The World Last 7 Days

USGS Volcano Status Map

National Geographic - Yellowstone Has Bulged As Magma Pocket Swells

Smithsonian Weekly Volcanic Activity Report

See Also:

How Many More Earthquakes Can Japan Take

Published by Tony Payne

Tony Payne is a freelance writer who lives on the South Coast of England with his wife Debbie. He has worked in the IT Industry all his life, and has been writing on various sites for the last 10 years. T...  View profile