Animation – Earthquakes Between 2001 and 2015

The American scientific agency within the United States Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published an animation on youtube showing the Earthquakes of the First 15 Years of the 21st Century (between January 1, 2001, and December 31, 2015). The animation shows every recorded earthquake in sequence as they occurred at a rate of 30 days per second. It is based on the new SOS dataset of all the earthquakes in that period from the US NWS Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

This animation shows every recorded earthquake in sequence as they occurred from January 1, 2001, through December 31, 2015. Several large earthquakes caused devastating tsunamis in this time period.

In the animation above, the earthquake hypocenters first appear as flashes then remain as colored circles before shrinking with time so as not to obscure subsequent earthquakes. The size of the circle represents the earthquake magnitude while the color represents its depth within the earth. At the end of the animation, it will first show all quakes in this 15-year period. Next, it will show only those earthquakes greater than magnitude 6.5, the smallest earthquake size known to make a tsunami. Finally, it will only show those earthquakes with magnitudes of magnitude 8.0 or larger, the “great” earthquakes most likely to pose a tsunami threat when they occur under the ocean or near a coastline and when they are shallow within the earth (less than 100 km or 60 mi. deep).

Here is another (3D) version of the same animation below:

This animation shows every recorded earthquake in sequence as they occurred from January 1, 2001, through December 31, 2015, at a rate of 30 days per second.

Some of the most powerful earthquakes in history

Read more: Top 10 most powerful earthquakes in recorded history

This time period includes some remarkable events – some of the most powerful earthquakes in recorded history. Several large earthquakes caused devastating tsunamis, including 9.1 magnitude in Sumatra, which has a death toll of 230,000-280,000 (December 26, 2004), 8.1 magnitude in Samoa (September 29, 2009), 8.8 magnitude in Chile (February 27, 2010), and 9.1 magnitude off of Japan (March 11, 2011). Like most earthquakes, these events occurred at plate boundaries, and truly large events like these tend to occur at subduction zones where tectonic plates collide. Other, much smaller earthquakes also occur away from plate boundaries such as those related to volcanic activity in Hawaii or those related to wastewater injection wells in Oklahoma.

A village after 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami
Indian Ocean (Jan. 2, 2005) – A village near the coast of Sumatra lays in ruin after the Tsunami that struck South East Asia. Helicopters assigned to Carrier Air Wing Two (CVW-2) and Sailors from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) are conducting humanitarian operations in the wake of the Tsunami that struck South East Asia. The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is currently operating in the Indian Ocean off the waters of Indonesia and Thailand. (South-West suburb of Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Village of Lampisang is visible in the upper-right corner) U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Philip A. McDaniel (RELEASED). This Image was released by the United States Navy with the ID 050102-N-9593M-040.One of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history (second after the 1931 China floods), the 2004 Sumatra Earthquake, also known as the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on 26 December with the epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. It ruptured the greatest fault length of any recorded earthquake, spanning a distance of 1500 km (900 miles). The resulting tsunami, with waves up to 30 metres (100 ft) high, caused up to a quarter of a million deaths.The earthquake had also longest duration of faulting ever observed, between 8.3 and 10 minutes. It caused the entire planet to vibrate as much as 1 centimeter (0.4 inches). Total energy release by the quake was 4.0×1022 joules (4.0×1029 ergs), or 9,600 gigatons of TNT, 550 million times that of Hiroshima atomic bomb. The vast majority of this energy was underground. The energy released on the Earth’s surface was estimated at 1.1×1017 joules, or 26 megatons of TNT. This energy is equivalent to over 1,500 times that of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, but less than that of Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated.The resulting tsunami was given various names, including the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, South Asian tsunami, Indonesian tsunami, the Christmas tsunami (there were also hundreds of thousands Christian tourists in the areas affected by the tsunami), and the Boxing Day tsunami.

Notable Features of the Earthquakes in this period

  • The great majority of earthquakes occur at tectonic plate boundaries.
  • The majority of great earthquakes (magnitude 8.0 or larger) are megathrust earthquakes that occur at convergent plate boundaries, also called destructive margins or subduction zones.
  • For an earthquake to pose a tsunami hazard it needs to vertically move the seafloor; therefore it needs to be large (typically 8.0 or larger), under or near the ocean, and shallow within the earth (less than 100 km).
  • During the 15-year period covered by this animation 20 earthquakes had a magnitude of 8.0 or larger:
    • February 6, 2013, MW = 8.0, west of Lata, Solomon Islands
    • May 3, 2006, MW = 8.0, Tonga
    • August 15, 2007, MW = 8.0, near coast of central Peru
    • December 23, 2004, MW = 8.1, north of Macquarie Island (south of New Zealand)
    • January 13, 2007, MW = 8.1, east of Kuril Islands, Russia
    • April 1, 2007, MW = 8.1, Solomon Islands
    • September 29, 2009, MW = 8.1, Samoa Islands
    • April 11, 2012, MW = 8.2, off the west coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia
    • April 1, 2014, MW = 8.2, northern Chile
    • September 25, 2003, MW = 8.3, Hokkaido, Japan
    • November 15, 2006, MW = 8.3, Kuril Islands, Russia
    • May 24, 2013, MW = 8.3, Sea of Okhotsk, Russia
    • September 16, 2015, MW = 8.3, central Chile
    • June 23, 2001, MW = 8.4, near coast of southern Peru
    • September 12, 2007, MW = 8.4, southern Sumatra, Indonesia
    • March 28, 2005, MW = 8.6, northern Sumatra, Indonesia
    • April 11, 2012, MW = 8.6, off the west coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia
    • February 27, 2010, MW = 8.8, offshore of central Chile
    • March 11, 2011, MW = 9.1, near the east coast of Honshu, Japan
    • December 26, 2004, MW = 9.1, northern Sumatra and Andaman Islands

Emergency Preparedness Checklist

What to do in an earthquake, or during other natural disasters? You can check out this complete emergency preparedness checklist.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Formed on October 3, 1970, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is an American scientific agency within the United States Department of Commerce that focuses on the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere. NOAA warns of dangerous weather, charts seas, guides the use and protection of ocean and coastal resources and conducts research to provide the understanding and improve stewardship of the environment. In addition to its over 11,000 civilian employees, NOAA research and operations are supported by 321 uniformed service members who make up the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps.


M. Özgür Nevres

I am a software developer, an ex-road racing cyclist, and a science enthusiast. Also an animal lover! I write about the planet Earth and science on this website, You can check out my social media profiles by clicking on their icons.

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