Where Do Most Earthquakes Occur?

By Oishimaya Sen Nag on November 4 2020 in Environment

Earthquakes are measured with the help of a seismograph. Image credit: Andrey VP/Shutterstock.com
  • Earthquakes happen along the edges of tectonic plates and fault lines.
  • There are three large zones on our planet which are most susceptible to earthquakes.
  • The Pacific Ring of Fire is an earthquake belt that experiences 81% of the largest earthquakes in the world.
  • 17% of the earthquakes of the world take place in the Alpide belt.
  • The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is also highly vulnerable to earthquakes.

Earthquakes can strike at any location on Earth and at any point of time. However, some parts of the Earth are more prone to earthquakes than others. Earthquakes happen along the edges of tectonic plates and fault lines and there are three large zones on our planet which are most susceptible to earthquakes.

Where Do Most Earthquakes Occur?

Earthquake Prone Zones On Earth

Earthquakes Occur Along Plate Edges

Earthquakes occur due to plate tectonics. Image credit: trgrowth/Shutterstock.com

Earthquakes are common at points on Earth where the oceanic or continental plates meet or at the edges of the oceanic and continental plates. Not going into difficult geological terms, if simply put, our planet’s outermost layer or the Earth’s crust comprises of several pieces called plates that are interconnected to each other. These plates may form the bottom of oceans or the surface of the land. The plates are susceptible to movements which are triggered in the mantle layer of the Earth below the Earth’s crust. Such movements might result in a plate sliding over another or moving away from each other and then colliding with force. Such movements of the Earth’s crust results in earthquakes.

Earthquakes Occur Along Fault Lines

Aerial view of a section of the San Andreas fault line taken at sunset. Image credit: Aerial-i/Shutterstock.com

Earthquakes also occur along fault lines in the Earth’s crust. Faults are basically cracks in the continental or oceanic plates triggered due to plate tectonics. The crust is highly unstable in the vicinity of fault lines and disturbances along the fault lines might trigger massive earthquakes.

Earthquake Prone Zones On Earth

The Pacific Ring of Fire. Image credit: Tunasalmon/Shutterstock.com

The Circum-Pacific Seismic Belt Or The “Ring Of Fire"

The Pacific Ring of Fire is an earthquake belt that experiences 81% of the largest earthquakes in the world. The belt extends from Chile northwards along the Pacific coast of South America, Central America to Mexico in North America. The belt further extends into the West Coast of the US to the southern parts of Alaska and extends further encompassing the Aleutian Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Japan, the Philippine archipelago, New Guinea, Southwest Pacific islands, and New Zealand are also part of this earthquake belt. The presence of young, growing mountains and volcanoes, deep ocean trenches, edges of tectonic plates, and other tectonically active structures makes the Pacific Ring of Fire so highly prone to earthquakes.

The Alpide Belt

Alpide orogenic/seismic belt. Image credit: Wikimedia.org

17% of the earthquakes of the world take place in this earthquake belt. The belt extends from the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra in Southeast Asia across the Himalayan region of the Indian subcontinent through Central Asia into the Mediterranean Sea, and out into the Atlantic Ocean. Some of the major earthquakes in the Alpide belt include the Iran shock that claimed 11,000 lives in August 1968, and the March 1970 Turkey earthquake that killed nearly 1,000 individuals. The presence of growing mountains, fault lines, and other forms of seismically active structures make the Alpide belt susceptible to earthquakes.

Mid-Atlantic Ridge

INational park of Iceland Thingvellir. The park lies in a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Image credit: Zabotnova Inna/Shutterstock.com

This ridge is a mid-ocean ridge that is located along the Atlantic Ocean’s floor. It separates the Eurasian and North American Plates in the North Atlantic Ocean and the South American and African continental plates in the South Atlantic Ocean. Since this belt is involved in a high rate of tectonic activities, it is also highly vulnerable to earthquakes.

1. The World's Most Earthquake Prone Countries

Not every country in the world is highly susceptible to earthquakes. The world's 5 most earthquake-prone countries include China, Indonesia, Iran, Turkey, and Japan.

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