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Earthquake Fatality Trends – Increasing?

June 23, 2011, by Ken Jorgustin


Are earthquakes around the world increasing, compared to the historical recorded ‘normal’? Some suggest yes, while others argue no due to technological advancements in earthquake detection and reporting – which is partly true – but mostly for lower magnitude quakes. Given that ‘large’ earthquakes seem to be occurring at a higher than normal rate, I thought that it would be worth data-mining the fatality statistics – to have a slightly different angle approach on the subject.

My data is sourced from the USGS (United States Geological Survey).

Before some of you immediately discount the results due to advancements in technology and data reporting during recent times compared to say, 50 years ago or further… consider this…

Similar to how recent technology has enabled more accurate accounting of small earthquakes compared to years ago, today’s communications technology has no doubt contributed somewhat to a higher number of reports of fatalities due to earthquakes around the world compared with years ago.

There is without a doubt some percentage of ‘skew’ in the numbers because of this. However, I would argue that the skew is somewhat slight when considering that strong-high magnitude earthquakes (and fatalities) are fairly easy to measure and account for – and have been, even 50 or 100 years ago.

In addition, although expected along tectonic boundaries, the random nature of where a large earthquake will occur, will affect the number of recorded fatalities. Logically, if a large quake occurs near a major city region, we will surely encounter higher fatalities. World population has also increased, thus increasing the odds of earthquake fatality (and all other fatalities for that matter…).

Nevertheless, it is interesting to look at historical data, while keeping in mind the known arguments for-and-against an increase in earthquakes or fatalities during recent times.

My instinct tells me that we are in a period of higher than ‘normal’ earthquake activity while looking at magnitude 5 or greater, and while looking at overall fatalities (given the arguments).

Curiously, the highest hit nations with regards to earthquake fatalities since the year 1900 are China, Sumatra, Haiti, Japan, Pakistan, Peru, Italy, Turkey, and Iran.

Earthquake Fatality Trend – 10 year intervals to 2011

As of the end of June, 2011, the world has already received the average (1) quake of magnitude 8 or greater, plus we’re 117% ahead for magnitude 7-7.9, 197% ahead for magnitude 6-6.9, and 212% ahead for magnitude 5-5.9 earthquakes as of percentages for day#174 of the year.

Given these interesting statistics, you may ask, what can I do about it? It’s out of my control…

You can take some preparedness precautions by storing some extra food and water (a ‘survival’ form of life-insurance), build a simple (or complicated) survival kit for you home or vehicle, or think about or make a disaster plan (where you would go – what you would do).

Remember, by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail…

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