Are there more earthquakes occurring in our world?

Are there more earthquakes occurring in our world?

The reason that this question appears in a religious context is that Jesus Christ mentioned an increase in earthquakes during the time of the Tribulation.  Are recent earthquakes in Japan, Chile, Iran, California and other places a sign of the end?

Matthew 24:5-8 many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray.  (6)  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars.  (7)  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  (8)  All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. 

It seems to us that that earthquakes are increasing in intensity and frequency.  News and video from Chile, Iran, Japan and other locations flood into the 24-hour news cycle with regularity.  But our perceptions are not the most accurate way to answer the question “Are more earthquakes occurring in our world?”

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) keeps a very close watch on the number of earthquakes, their intensity and size and locations.  At first glance at their data, one could conclude that earthquakes are indeed increasing but this is due to the fact that we have the capacity to measure more earthquakes.  In 1931, there were 350 locations measuring seismic activity.  Today the total of measuring points on the earth is over 4,000!  The instruments in use are much more sensitive and are able to detect smaller earthquakes. Each year between 12,000 and 14,000 earthquakes are detected.  Earthquake apps and alerts now show us instantaneous results on our smart phones.

Instead of looking at the total number of earthquakes that occur each year, it is more accurate to count the number of MAJOR earthquakes that occur.  Since 1900 there have been 18 earthquakes each year between 7.0 and 7.9.  On average there has been one earthquake each year above 8.0 on the Richter scale.  In recent decades, there has actually been less than the historical average of 18 major quakes per year.

The following graph shows the number of earthquakes that have occured world-wide each year from 2000 to 2011. The yellow line shows the number of earthquakes between 6.0 and 6.9.  The pink line shows the number of earthquakes measuring between 7.0 and 7.9.  The blue line shows the number of earthquakes 8.0 and higher.  The graph shows that the number of earthquakes is not increasing.


Number of Earthquakes per Year



Shad Sluiter