After the magnitude 6.9 earthquake in China early Wednesday morning, things are starting to look a little bleak on this planet of ours. This year is only three and a half months old, and yet there have been devastating earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, and China.
Add to that the recent magnitude 7.2 near the Mexico-California border, a 7.7 off Sumatra last week, a 6.9 that gave northern Californians a scare two days before the Haiti quake, not to mention a whole slew of other big rattles and close calls, and you'd be forgiven for asking "seriously, what is going on??"
As a visual reference, here's the full list of the earthquakes the United States Geological Survey in 2010 has deemed "significant" on their web page, Significant Earthquake and News Headlines:
For the record, that's 26 quakes (one was cut off at the bottom because it just didn't fit in the screen shot — a 6.6 in the Solomon Islands), 21 of which were greater than magnitude 6.0. Wow — certainly seems like Earth has got the jitters.
Not any more than usual! The sharp-eyed reader will notice that in the above image, under "News" the first headline is "Is Recent Earthquake Activity Unusual? Scientists Say No." That's a release from earlier today, and it's unequivocal — there is no unusual or elevated risk of seismic activity world wide:
Scientists say 2010 is not showing signs of unusually high earthquake activity. Since 1900, an average of 16 magnitude 7 or greater earthquakes — the size that seismologists define as major — have occurred worldwide each year. Some years have had as few as 6, as in 1986 and 1989, while 1943 had 32, with considerable variability from year to year. With six major earthquakes striking in the first four months of this year, 2010 is well within the normal range. Furthermore, from April 15, 2009, to April 14, 2010, there have been 18 major earthquakes, a number also well within the expected variation. “While the number of earthquakes is within the normal range, this does not diminish the fact that there has been extreme devastation and loss of life in heavily populated areas,” said USGS Associate Coordinator for Earthquake Hazards Dr. Michael Blanpied.
Armageddon isn't here, God isn't mad at us, and there are no aliens are playing Jenga with Earth's tectonic plates. It's a shame really, because any kind of worldwide change in seismic activity would be an incredible, MASSIVE discovery that would profoundly alter our understanding of how tectonics works.
Too bad. Guess the only thing to do is put away the tinfoil hats — until the next big quake hits.
Source, Image: USGS