The Cable

Watch Every Recorded Earthquake Around the World in the Last 15 Years (in Under 4 Minutes)

Every one of the world’s recorded earthquakes over the last 15 years turned into one terrifying animation.


The earth’s tectonic plates are a lot busier than you might have imagined — terrifyingly so, in fact.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Pacific Tsunami Warning Center released an animated video showing all of the world’s recorded quakes from January 1, 2001 to December 31, 2015. And it’s a lot. The U.S. Geological survey estimates there are over 500,000 detectable earthquakes a year — though fortunately very few cause destruction. Roughly 100,000 earthquakes can be even felt and of those, only 100 of them cause any damage.

The video graphically demonstrates why the Pacific Rim is also known as the “Ring of Fire.” Quakes seem to continually hammer the chains of islands from the Aleutians, through Japan, and into Indonesia. The latest major earthquake rocked Indonesia on Wednesday, killing an estimated 100 people and injuring over 500.

In the last 15 years, those few that caused damage were devastating. They include the December 2004, 9.1-magnitude earthquake that sparked a devastating tsunami on coastlines of the Indian Ocean; the 8.8-magnitude earthquake in Chile in 2010 that killed over 500; and the 9.0-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Japan in March 2011 that sparked the Fukushima nuclear accident. During the 15 year period, the world was rocked by over 20 quakes of 8.0 magnitude or higher.  

As the video shows, colorful dots represents each earthquake. The larger the dot, the larger the earthquake; redder circles represent epicenters that are closer to the earth’s surface.

Understanding the havoc that some of the animated dots represent make the video even more terrifying.

Earthquakes have caused some of the deadliest and costliest natural disasters in recorded history. For example, the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan that killed over 15,000 people is the most expensive natural disaster in history, causing $360 billion in damages and destroying nearly 140,000 buildings. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami is one of the deadliest recorded natural disasters, killing an estimated 230,000 people. It also sparked the largest humanitarian relief effort in history, according to the United Nations. One of the worst-hit regions in the 2004 tsunami was Indonesia’s Aceh province, which suffered the deadly earthquake on Wednesday.

Photo credit: NOAA Science on a Sphere

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola