Mapping Seismic Activity: Vulnerable vs. Non-Vulnerable Regions

Mapping Seismic Activity: Vulnerable vs. Non-Vulnerable Regions

The study of plate tectonics offers an interesting view on our
planet’s past, present, and future seismic activity. The larger and
expanded map indicates the probable intensity of earthquakes that could
happen in the next 50 years, starting from 2004. The green lines
represent the earth’s plate boundaries and the shaded colors ranging
from grey to orange represent the probable intensity of an earthquake in
that specific region. Each red dot on the map represents a recorded
seismic event since 1900 that had a Seismic Moment Magnitude above 8.5.
Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue, the author of this map, explains that it is a
matter of when, rather than if, that these endangered areas face some
sort of seismic activity in the near future.

Although there are vulnerable areas in middle Asia, the Middle East,
and Europe, with very distinguishable seismic activity, such as Italy
for example, most areas that have had either previous or predicted
earthquakes exist on the edges of the Pacific Ocean in a region called
the Ring of Fire, depicted in the zoomed-in second map. This horseshoe
shaped border of most of the Pacific Ocean stretches for 40,000 km
(≈25,000 miles) and contains 75% of the earth’s active and dormant
volcanoes. Notice that out of the documented 16 earthquakes that had
magnitudes higher than 8.5, 12 occurred almost directly on the Pacific
Ring of Fire. This is no coincidence. A collection of convergent,
divergent, and transform boundaries create this highly active ring where
powerful earthquakes shake the ground and active volcanoes reshape

Recently within the Ring of Fire, Asia has suffered from catastrophic
earthquakes and tsunamis generated from deep-sea earthquakes. Mount
Ruapehu in New Zealand has continued to be one of the most active
volcanoes on earth with consistent annual eruptions, and Chile has had
some of the most spontaneous seismic activity in the world. It is hard
to not become a little daunted by the events that have occurred within
the Ring of Fire, especially for those who reside directly on and near
the plate boundaries. One cannot help but to question where the next
site of devastation will occur. With that said; continued research and
mapping of seismic activity will generate more data and scientific
breakthroughs which in turn will increase the predictability of
dangerous seismic activity.

–Pete D
Photo Credits:
1. Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue, Hofstra University
2. Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue, Hofstra University



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