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Worldwide EARTHQUAKE FREQUENCY
By Hal Dekker
Last page update: 2016.09.28
The USGS site has recently transitioned to at least a new system of pages and data presentations based upon the new appearance of their website. Everything looks new, clean and bright, but now requires everyone to spend time to re-learn how and where to navigate to find anything and everything. I hate it when my favorite supermarket does this. The following is the new link to their Earthquake Statistics page.
In the past the historical stats posted at the USGS website were occasionally revised up and down in the following year for previous years, for reasons unknown to me. The revisions often go back through a few years or more. The USGS earthquake statistics data posted here from the USGS web page have been updated for the latest USGS data revisions as of Sept. 28, 2016, for 2015 back through 2010.
The new USGS worldwide earthquake statistics format no longer gives us earthquake statistics for earthquakes below 5.0 magnitude, or maybe they still do but I haven't found the page yet. This may be, as I can only guess, because they believe that earthquakes at 4.9 magnitude and below are more benign in their level of threat to loss of life and property.
The following charts showing 26 year trend data of worldwide earthquake statistics for various magnitudes was found at the USGS link above, and previous links which no longer exist.
Worldwide 26 Year Trend
Is the USGS data accurate, and are they comparing "apples to apples" both between years of data collected, and between magnitude categories? The USGS says, "Starting in January 2009, the USGS National Earthquake Information Center no longer locates earthquakes smaller than magnitude 4.5 outside the United States, unless we receive specific information that the earthquake was felt or caused damage."
In the above chart, the cells with the light yellow background, starting in 2009, contain the data which USGS states is no longer "apples to apples" with the other historical data in the chart for previous years. Measuring the frequency in the distinct occurrences of more destructive earthquakes, in the magnitude of 5.0 and upward, may serve in finding the correlation between scientific discovery and documentation of earthquakes with Biblical prophesy (Mat. 24:7; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:11; Rev. 6:12, 11:13, 19, 16:18). Therefore I believe the long term trends in higher magnitude earthquakes, which are most responsible for destruction and casualties, are what we should watch as being most indicative of the approach of the last days.
In the four upper magnitude categories, from 5.0 magnitude and upward, the 6.0 - 6.9 magnitude category shows dramatic growth in the worldwide frequency of large magnitude earthquakes. But please keep in mind, whether this data actually means anything at all depends upon the quality of how the USGS calculates and quantifies all of the seismic data, to identify and count the number of distinct earthquakes which are occurring worldwide.
In the charts below, the legends show the magnitude sizes. The black linear trend lines show the gradual increase/decrease in earthquake frequency over time, depending upon the quality of the data. Since more and more seismic detectors are still being planted in the ground it seems reasonable to expect that more smaller earthquakes are being detected, and the USGS numbers used in the charts may reflect that increase.
The earthquake magnitude category historically showing the greatest number of worldwide earthquakes is the 4.0 - 4.9 range, which is total is about 37% of all worldwide earthquakes of all magnitude categories.
Historically, about 80% of all recorded worldwide earthquakes measure in the 2.0 and 4.9 ranges of magnitude.
Based upon the angle of their linear trend lines, the three fastest growing ranges of magnitude categories are 4.0 - 4.9, 3.0 - 3.9, and 6.0 - 6.9. Although 6.0 - 6.9 category earthquakes are much fewer in number than the other two categories, they are much more destructive.
upon the USGS data, earthquakes measuring 7.0 and above are very few,
being less than 0.1% of all earthquakes. But based upon the news media,
earthquakes measuring 7.0 and above are the most lethal, and are
responsible for most earthquake and tsunami related deaths.
Are Earthquakes Really On The Increase?
When analyzing this data one should keep in mind the caveat given by the USGS:
"We continue to be asked by many people throughout the world if earthquakes are on the increase. Although it may seem that we are having more earthquakes, earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater have remained fairly constant.
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 than 8,000 stations and the data now comes in rapidly from these stations by electronic mail, internet 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 earthquakes more rapidly and to locate many small earthquakes which were undetected in earlier years. The NEIC now locates about 20,000 earthquakes each year or approximately 50 per day. Also, because of the improvements in communications and the increased interest in the environment and natural disasters, the public now learns about more earthquakes."
The paragraph was quoted from the following USGS site in 2014:
But are the USGS numbers accurate enough to reflect a plausible trend in the frequency of distinct earthquake occurrences? Given their caveat, and from looking at their data, this question seems obvious to me. First of all, I know nothing about tracking seismic events. But regardless of that, the seismic data does make some implications which I think I can see, and which I think anyone can see.
Based upon the time and location of an earthquake, and the geologic structure of the earth's crust through which its shockwave must travel, I'm guessing the technicians collect the data from various seismic monitors in the regions which detected an event and then trace the required time the shockwave or shockwaves needed to travel to outward concentric locations through various geologic strata. And then, through that time-tracking process, they can identify from where the event or events occurred, and whether one event caused the many detectors at various locations to register it, or whether they registered several events from various locations.
But I admit I know nothing about this. And I am simply guessing as to how the technicians may go about distinguishing and quantifying one or multiple earthquake events from one another. I'm certain they have a methodology of some kind, and I'm assuming that whatever that methodology is it has been used all along to populate their tables of data with the number of distinct worldwide earthquakes. Otherwise the data in their earthquake data tables means absolutely nothing regarding accurate quantifications of the number of distinct earthquakes occurring, wherever they may occur! And so first of all we must rely on their use of, and assume they are using, an accurate and consistent seismic identification methodology which must be the reason for the data the USGS presents in its earthquake data tables.
But exactly how is that data calculated and quantified, which are the numbers the USGS present to represent the counting of individual distinct earthquakes? This may seem like an obvious and logical question to ask, but so far I have not been able to find the answer at the USGS web pages. I would like to see an explanation of how that methodology is applied to come up with the data they present.
But what does the USGS data show me, and what distinctions can I, a layman, make from the data they present?
From looking at the chart showing the colored trend lines for magnitude categories 3.0 to 3.9 and 4.0 to 4.9, their trend lines dip dramatically as a result of the now missing worldwide earthquake data for magnitudes 4.5 and below. The only magnitudes where data collection and consolidation remains "apples to apples" to years previous to 2009, according the USGS, are now for categories of events with magnitudes of 4.5 and higher.
As can be plainly seen from the USGS data, the frequency of worldwide earthquakes in the 2.0 - 4.9 magnitude categories are apparently growing at the greatest rate compared to all other magnitude categories, with earthquake frequency in the 4.0 - 4.9 magnitude category growing at the greatest rate. But we are cautioned to understand that this "growth" in the frequency of lower magnitude events is due to the use of more seismic detectors installed in the ground.
But I think I see something in the 1.0 - 5.9 chart which may suggest an anomaly in the USGS data, which is the apparent inverse growth rate between 2.0 - 2.9 and 4.0 - 4.9 magnitude categories for years 1993 through 2005. When 2.0 - 2.9 shows a drop in frequency 4.0 - 4.9 shows an apparent proportional reciprocal increase in frequency. Whereas the three magnitude categories from magnitudes 1.0 - 3.9 appear to be somewhat in harmony in their frequency growth trends. How does the USGS caveat explain this?
The USGS' answer to the apparent worldwide increase in the frequency of earthquakes is that there are simply more seismograph monitoring stations now, and so more earthquakes can be detected. This sounds plausible to me for a moment, if I don't think through it any further, or actually look at the data. But, if more seismographic monitoring stations throughout the world detect more earthquakes, then shouldn't they detect more earthquakes in all magnitude categories without partiality toward any particular magnitude category?
From looking at the data, now I ask why more seismic monitoring stations planted into the earth's crust appear to find relatively no more No Magnitude to 2.9 category earthquakes through 2008? Smaller earthquakes, whose vibrations may not travel as far through the earth's crust, would seem to me to require more concentration of seismic detectors to find them, which agrees with what the USGS says they are doing. But yet, according to their own data through 2008 the frequency of earthquakes in the No Magnitude to 2.9 categories appear to be dropping over the last few years up to 2008, while the number of earthquakes of 3.0 and greater appear to still be on the increase! Shouldn't the inverse of this be happening, from more seismic detectors planted in greater concentration shouldn't they find more smaller earthquakes whose shock waves can't travel as far? Are not larger shockwaves much more obvious than smaller ones?
To a seismic detector planted into the ground in the middle of Los Angeles, if that detector may measure an 8.0 magnitude earthquake event there, then would a seismic detector planted in Santa Barbara measure that diluted shockwave as only a 2.5 magnitude, given the distance between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, and the time interval required for the wave to travel through the ground, and given the geological structure between those two cities? I'm guessing it's somewhat difficult for the USGS to differentiate between two separate and distinct earthquakes occurring, one each in both Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, as opposed to one single earthquake being measured at two different locations distant from one another, since both are along the same fault line. I'm guessing that this consideration, or something similar to it, must be factored into the data the USGS is posting at their web sites.
And what about the 5.0 - 5.9 magnitude category, which shows dramatically less growth relative to the 4.0 - 4.9 category below it and the 6.0 - 6.9 category above it? The three categories of magnitude below it and the one above it show tremendous variations and growth in earthquake frequency during the same period? Is the earth stubbornly not producing any more earthquakes in the 5.0 - 5.9 magnitude category in spite of more seismic detectors planted in the earth's crust to search them out? Or are the additional seismic detectors being intentionally attenuated to filter out earthquakes in the 5.0 - 5.9 magnitude category, which seems unlikely? As more seismic detectors are planted shouldn't we expect to see relatively equal "growth" rates among all magnitude categories?
Neither of these explanations seems plausible to me to explain such a relatively dramatic lack of earthquake frequency growth in the 5.0 - 5.9 magnitude category over the last two decades. And so to me the explanation that more seismographic measuring devices are being implanted in the earth's crust as the reason for more earthquakes being detected, doesn't seem entirely true. The frequency of events in the 5.0 - 5.9 range can't seem to keep up the "growth" rates of the other magnitude categories!
To me, the apparent lack of growth in the number of earthquake events in the No Magnitude, 1.0 - 1.9, and 5.0 - 5.9 magnitude categories presents very curious phenomena if the USGS data is correct, in contrast to the USGS claim that more seismic detectors are finding more earthquakes. Why shouldn't the increase in seismic detectors detect more earthquakes across all low magnitude categories without partiality?
I can think of several possibly plausible (to me) arguments, but I'll mention only one, which can both explain and explain away the apparent worldwide increase in earthquake frequency, aside form the installation of more seismic detectors. IF the increased number of seismographic monitoring stations are finding more earthquakes to monitor and measure, but since the No Magnitude, 1.0 - 1.9 magnitude and 5.0 - 5.9 magnitude categories show no trended increase in earthquake frequency proportional and relative to the rate of increase in the other low magnitude categories, then the worldwide frequency of earthquake occurrences in these three magnitude categories would need to actually diminish at a rate commensurate with the rate of increase in the number of seismic detectors coming on-line, in order for the slope of their linear frequency trends to remain virtually flat. This too causes me to consider the quality of the data. Maybe the new USGS Online Earthquake Catalog can help me solve this apparent (to me) anomaly in the data.
The very lack of increase in the worldwide frequency of earthquake occurrences in the No Magnitude, 1.0 - 1.9, and 5.0 to 5.9 magnitude categories seems to actually refute the USGS argument that the increase in seismic detectors is responsible for the apparent increase in the worldwide frequency of earthquake occurrences in the other magnitude categories!
The New USGS Online Earthquake Catalog!
The USGS has developed a new Online Earthquake Catalog (OEC) which can be accessed at their Earthquake Archive Search & URL Builder web page to which you can link here:
This new feature seems fairly powerful! Gotta tip our hats to those geeks and their managers for conceiving of this, pushing it through for approval, and then getting it done.
When I was in the data business for awhile, on the hands-on side, old school programmers described the process as, "Design, code, test, install, and implement it!". But going forward the USGS is doing away with the consolidated tables of earthquake data which they've presented in the past. What, it's too much work to keep making those little cut and paste tables?
I'm experimenting with the OEC by trying to create a data sample of all individually distinct earthquakes worldwide between Jan. 1, 2012 through Dec. 31, 2012. Using the Basic Search Options I'm able to create a list, in CSV format, of 19,464 distinct earthquakes worldwide during that time period. However, I'm still trying to reconcile that number with the number they present in their consolidated table of Number of Earthquakes Worldwide for 2000 - 2012, which total is 16,667, which new table can be seen using the link at the top of this page. They may have already addressed this apparent discrepancy, but I haven't found it yet. Reconciling these two numbers is the next big problem I face in order to keep this page accurate and up to date going forward.
My Biblical Perspective:
From a perspective of the ancient Judeo-Christian writings, the holy scriptures give us some information regarding earthquakes: 1 Kings 19:11-12; Isa. 29:6; Amos 1:1; Zech. 14:5; Mat. 8:24, 24:7, 27:54, 28:2; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:11; Acts 16:26; Rev. 6:12, 8:5, 11:13, 11:19, 16:18.
At least one tsunami, as a result of an earthquake, is recorded in the holy scriptures. The LIT is my Literal Idiomatic Translation, and the UBS4 is the United Bible Societies v4 eclectic Greek text from which I quote the ancient new covenant writers of those books of the Bible. The words in parentheses are quotes of the UBS4 Greek text, but arranged grammatically to conform to Western English sentence structure.
Mat. 8:23 (LIT/UBS4) And (kai) he (autō) having embarked (embanti) into (eis) a ship (ploion), the (hoi) disciples (mathetai) of him (autou) followed out (ēkolouthēsan) to him (autō).
Mat. 8:24 (LIT/UBS4) And (kai) behold (idou), an earthquake (seismos) caused itself to become (egeneto) great (megas) in (en) to the (tē) sea (thalassē), and so (hōste) the (to) ship (ploion) to be covered (kaluptesthai) under (hupo) [authority] of the (tōn) waves (kumaton)!
But (de) he (autos) was down sleeping (ekatheuden).
According to what Jesus Christ said as quoted by the Matthew, either the apostle Matthew or some other Matthew, the signs of the last days shall be so intense, and thusly obvious to everyone, that there could be no doubt as to whether they are signs of the end times (Mat. 24:3-16).
Mat. 24:3 (LIT/UBS4) But (de) of him (autou) causing himself to sit down (kathēmenou) upon (epi) the (tou) mountain (orous), the one (tōn) of olive trees (elaiōn), the (hoi) disciples (mathētai) came toward (prosēlthon) him (autō) down on (kat’) his own (idian), saying (legontes), “Enunciate (eipe) to us (hēmin) when (pote) these things (tauta) shall cause itself to be (estai), and (kai) what (ti) [is] the (to) sign (sēmeion) of the (tēs) presence (parousias) [of the] moth (sēs), and (kai) of the (tēs) complete coming together (sunteleias) of the (tou) age (aionos)?”
(See Isa. 51:8)
Mat. 24:4 (LIT/UBS4) And (kai) having been caused to make a decision (apokritheis), the (ho) Jesus (Iēsous) enunciated (eipen) to them (autois), “Look (blepete), may not anyone of you wander (mē tis humas planēsē)!
Mat. 24:5 (LIT/UBS4) Because (gar) many (polloi) shall cause themselves to come (eleusontai) over (epi) the (tō) name (onomati) of me (mou), saying (legontes), ‘I (egō) am (eimi) the (ho) Christ (Christos)’, and (kai) they shall cause many to wander (pollous planēsousi).
Mat. 24:6 (LIT/UBS4) But (de) you are about (mellēsete) to hear (akouein) of wars (polemous), and (kai) things heard (akoas) of wars (polemōn).
See that (horate) you are not troubled (mē throeisthe), because (gar) it is required (dei) to cause itself to come to pass (genesthai).
BUT (all), absolutely not yet (oupō) is (estin) the (to) completion (telos)!
Mat. 24:7 (LIT/UBS4) Because (gar) there shall be aroused (egethēsetai) ethnic group (ethnos) over (epi) ethnic group (ethnos), and (kai) kingdom (basileia) over (epi) kingdom (basileia).
And (kai) famines (limoi), and (kai) earthquakes (seismoi) shall cause themselves to be (esontai) down against (kata) places (topous).
Mat. 24:8 (LIT/UBS4) But (de) all (panta) these things (tauta) [are] a beginning (archē) of pains (ōdinōn).
Mat. 24:9 (LIT/UBS4) Then (tote) [ethnic groups] shall pass you aside (paradōsousin humas) into (eis) mental pressure (thlipsin), and (kai) they shall kill (apoktenousin) you (humas).
And (kai) you shall cause yourselves to be (esesthe) ones being despised (misoumenoi) under (hupo) [authority] of all (pantōn) ethnic groups (ethnōn), through (dia) the (to) name (onoma) of me (mou).
Mat. 24:10 (LIT/UBS4) And (kai) then (tote) many (polloi) shall be scandalized (scandalisthēsontai), and (kai) they shall pass one another aside (paradōsousin allēlous), and (kai) they shall despise (misēsousin) one another (allēlous).
Mat. 24:11 (LIT/UBS4) And (kai) many (polloi) false prophets (pseudoprophētai) shall be aroused (egerthēsontai), and (kai) they shall cause many to wander (planēsousin pollous).
Mat. 24:12 (LIT/UBS4) And (kai) through (dia) the (to) [false prophets] to make full (plēthunthēnai) the (tēn) lawlessness (anomian), the (hē) love (agapē) of the (tōn) many (pollōn) shall be blown cold (psugēsetai).
Mat. 24:13 (LIT/UBS4) But (de) the one (ho) having endured (hupomeinas) [it] into (eis) [the] completion (telos), this one (houtos) shall be made whole (sōthēsetai).
Mat. 24:14 (LIT/UBS4) And (kai) this (touto) shall be preached (kēruchthēsetai), the (to) Evangelism (euangelion) of the (tēs) Kingdom932 (basileias), in (en) to the (tē) whole (holē) inhabited land (oikoumenē), into (eis) a witness (marturion) to all (pasin) the (tois) ethnic groups (ethnesin).
And (kai) then (tote) shall arrive (hēxei) the (to) completion (telos).
Mat. 24:15 (LIT/UBS4) Therefore (oun), when perhaps (hotan) you may see (idēte) the (to) foul thing (bdelugma) of the (tēs) desolation (erēmōseōs), the (to) [prophecy] having been worded (rhēthen) through (dia) the (tou) prophet (prophētou) Daniel (Daniēl), having stood (hestos) in (en) a holy (hagiō) place (topō), (the one (ho) reading up (anaginōskōn), perceive (noeitō) [it]),
Mat. 24:16 (LIT/UBS4) then (tote) the ones (hoi) in (en) the (tē) Judaea (Ioudaia), let them flee (pheugetōsan) into (eis) the (ta) mountains (orē)."
The Sixth Seal
Rev. 6:12 (LIT/UBS4) And (kai) I saw (eidon) when (hote) [the little Lamb] opened up (ēnoixen) the (tēn) seal (sphragida), the (tēn) sixth one (hektēn), and (kai) there caused itself to become (egeneto) a great (megas) earthquake (seismos).
And (kai) the (ho) sun (hēlios) caused itself to become (egeneto) black (melas) as (hōs) a hair (trichinos) sackcloth (sakkos).
And (kai) the (hē) whole (holē) bright moon (selēnē) caused itself to become (egeneto) as (hōs) blood (haima).
Rev. 6:13 (LIT/UBS4) And (kai) the (hoi) stars (asteres) of the (tou) heaven (ouranou) fell (epesan) into (eis) the (tēn) land (gēn), as (hōs) a fig tree (sukē) throws (ballei) the (tous) unripe figs (olunthous) of her (autēs), she being quaked (seiomenē) under (hupo) [authority] of a great (megalou) wind (anemou).
(See Mat. 24:29-31)
Rev. 6:14 (LIT/UBS4) And (kai) the (ho) heaven (ouranos) made space away (apechōristhē) as (hōs) a little scroll (biblion) being coiled (helissomenon).
And (kai) every (pan) mountain (oros) and (kai) island (nēsōs) were moved (ekinēthēsan) out (ek) of the (tōn) places (topōn) of them (autōn).
Rev. 6:15 (LIT/UBS4) And (kai) the (hoi) kings (basileis) of the (tēs) land (gēs), and (kai) the (hoi) great ones (megistanes), and (kai) the (hoi) tribunes (chiliarchoi), and (kai) the (hoi) wealthy ones (plousioi), and (kai) the (hoi) strong ones (ischuroi), and (kai) every (pas) slave (doulos) and (kai) free one (eleutheros) hid (ekrupsan) themselves (heautous) into (eis) the (ta) caves (spēlaia), and (kai) into (eis) the (tas) rocks (petras) of the (tōn) mountains (oreōn);
Rev. 6:16 (LIT/UBS4) And (kai) they say (legousin) to the (tois) mountains (oresin) and (kai) to the (tais) rocks (petrais), “Fall (peseta) upon (eph’) us (hēmas), and (kai) hide (krupsate) us (hēmas) from (apo) [the] face (prosōpou) of the one (tou) causing Himself to sit down (kathēmenou) upon (epi) the (tou) throne (thronou), and (kai) from (apo) the (tēs) anger (orgēs) of the (tou) little Lamb (arniou);
Rev. 6:17 (LIT/UBS4) because (hoti) the (hē) day (hēmera) has come (ēlthen), the (hē) great one (megalē), of the (tēs) anger (orgēs) of them (autōn), and (kai) who (tis) can inherently power himself (dunatai) to be stood (stathēnai)?”
May the God's great and precious promises under His new covenant be coming to pass in your life!
Brother Hal Dekker