Q:

How many earthquakes occur each year?

A:

Quick Answer

According to the United States Geological Survey, several million earthquakes occur worldwide each year. It is difficult to refine this estimation to an exact number because many earthquakes go undetected, either because they occur in locations that are uninhabited or barely inhabited, or they are too small in magnitude to be detected by seismographs or other forms of detection.

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Full Answer

While the number of smaller earthquakes has seemed to increase over the past decade, the number of earthquakes measuring at a 6.0 magnitude or higher have remained somewhat stagnant. This may be due to the fact that more seismographs have been introduced to areas of the world, allowing scientists to detect and record smaller earthquakes that otherwise would not have been detected. Most earthquakes that have occurred worldwide in the last decade have been calculated between and 2.0 and 5.0 magnitude. Approximately 17 earthquakes measuring above an 8.0 magnitude have occurred since the year 2000. None of these large earthquakes occurred in the U.S.

The average number of magnitude 5.0 to 7.9 earthquakes occurring worldwide each year since 1990 is close to 1,500. It is important to note that the U.S. Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center does not actively locate and record earthquakes with a magnitude of 4.5 or lower occurring outside of the U.S., unless the earthquake causes considerable damage.

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    A:

    Earthquakes are usually triggered when rock located beneath the ground, on top of fault lines, breaks and suddenly releases a significant amount of energy. The immediate and rapid release of energy caused by earthquakes generates seismic waves, which cause shaking motions that start below the Earth’s surface and spread across large distances.

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