What is going on off of the coast of Yemen?!

There has been a tremendous number of earthquakes that began early during 14-Nov, and are ongoing at this moment.

More than 30 strong earthquakes ranging from magnitude 4.5 to 5.4 have rattled under the sea where the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea meet at a point off of Yemen.

The depths have been mostly around 10km, with a few deeper. A closer look reveals something that appears highly unusual. That is, so far 20 of the earthquakes have been at a depth of exactly 10.0 km.

This earthquake swarm is occurring right now, and is happening right in the middle of major oil and freight transit sea lanes, the busiest in the world.

Stay tuned and check back for more details and graphics as this unfolds…

Yemen Earthquake Swarm, closeup view, Gulf of Aden

This map will be updated as the event unfolds.

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The first earthquake occurred at 06:29, 14-Nov-2010 as a magnitude 4.6.

Just 3 minutes later, boom, a magnitude 5.4. Subsequent earthquakes have been shaking the ocean floor, some only minutes apart, and some just seconds apart.

The earthquake swarm location is at a tectonic plate boundary region where the Arabia plate meets the Somalia plate and the Nubia plate. A string of volcanoes are in the vicinity.


Update, 15-Nov, 04:00 UTC, they just keep on coming… 39 by my last count. Amazing. I wonder exactly where, and how deep the oil and gas fields are in the region, and what affect or hazard that an undersea volcanic eruption would present to that region.

Yemen Earthquake Swarm – Depths

What seems out of the ordinary, is how so many of the earthquakes have been at a 10 km depth. It’s as though there is a rift there, at that plane. The more recent earthquakes have varied a bit deeper, while there is one shallow 2.4 km event.

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<something feels unsettling about this one>

Update, 15-Nov, 1500 UTC, three additional earthquakes rumbled near magnitude 5 within 30 minutes of each other,  bringing the current total count up to 42. Location map and depth chart have been updated.


The earthquake swarm just off the southeast coast of Yemen is actually located on the Aden Ridge. This ridge separates the Arabian Plate and the Somalia Plate (Somalia Plate is a subplate of the African Plate). The ridge itself is pulling apart (a divergent boundary).

During 2005 in an area just 400 km from the current Aden Ridge earthquakes, a 35 mile stretch of land suddenly ripped open in Ethopia as two parts of the African continent pulled apart.

Not long after, a University of Rochester study, apparently published in an issue of Geophysical Research Letters, suggests that boundaries along the edges of tectonic ocean plates may suddenly break apart in large sections, instead of little by little as has been predominantly believed.

Could the earthquake swarm that we are witnessing, be a precursor to an undersea tear in the Gulf of Aden Ridge? Time will tell.

Look at this image showing the tectonic plate boundary and see how a larger cluster of earthquakes occurred to the north on the Arabian Plate, while a smaller group occurred on the Somalian Plate. Both are pulling away from each other, and the trench can be seen on the sea floor.


Here is a different view, showing more of a topographical map structure under the sea, and Gulf of Aden.



The following image shows the location of all volcanoes nearby. There are so many that it nearly looks like Indonesia over on the Ring of Fire.


Update, 15-Nov, 21:30 Pacific, (UTC – 8:00), although less frequent during day #2 then day #1, this does not appear to be over yet. Expect new updates and maps in the morning.

Update, 16-Nov, 07:30 Pacific, (UTC – 8:00), total earthquakes from swarm equal 46, and activity has definitely subsided. We’ll see how it goes today. Whoops, minutes after typing this, there goes another (magnitude 4.8 at 9.8 km depth), so make that 47 so far.

Update, 17-Nov, 07:30 Pacific, (UTC – 8:00), there have a total of 47 earthquakes in the swarm, which appears to have stopped.

  • Day 1, 37 earthquakes
  • Day 2, 7 earthquakes
  • Day 3, 3 earthquakes

Update, 18-Nov, 07:30 Pacific (UTC – 8:00), activity has not yet ceased. There were no earthquakes during the 17th, however 2 additional quakes so far during the 18th has brought the total number to 49. The depth map and closeup location map above should now be updated.

  • Day 4, 0 earthquakes
  • Day 5, 2 earthquakes

Update, 20-Nov, 08:30 Pacific (UTC – 8:00), after a quiet period, one more popped today at 9.8 km depth.

  • Day 6, 0 earthquakes
  • Day 7, 2 earthquakes

Update, 21-Nov, 13:00 Pacific (UTC – 8:00), it hasn’t given up yet… one more yesterday, and so far one more today.

  • Day 8, 2 earthquakes

Update, 24-Nov, although the swarm frequency of occurrence is negligible at this time,  after 2 quiet days, another earthquake at 10 km depth brings the total to 53.

  • Day 9, 0 earthquakes
  • Day 10, 0 earthquakes
  • Day 11, 1 earthquake

Update, 25-Nov, two more today, so far, 10 and 11 km.

Update, 30-Nov, after five days of quiet, the deepest quake so far popped at magnitude 4.6, depth 18.2 km.

Update, 5-Dec, 1 today, 9.5 km depth, magnitude 4.6

Update, 11-Dec, 1 today, 11.2 km depth, magnitude 4.8

Update, 31-Dec, after 20 days of silence, suddenly 2 new earthquakes pop here today, 11.4 and 9.6 km depth, magnitude 4.6 and 4.8.

Update, 10-Jan, it hasn’t stopped yet, 1 more today

Here is a map of the Yemen – Gulf of Aden earthquakes which shows more specific location detail. Many of the earthquakes seem to form a pattern, the way I see it. I drew lines connecting the earthquakes that appeared related in some way. Again, it’s just the way my eye sees it. Interesting.


Update, 19-Apr-2011
After a period of quiet, 2 Earthquakes within 30 minutes shake the sea floor of the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Yemen and Djibouti, a magnitude 4.9 and 4.7. Could this be the beginnings of a new swarm? We’ll see…

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