NEARLY 60,000 earthquakes have rocked the planet in the past year and more than 4,700 struck last month alone – but could these tremors be a sign of the Big One in the Pacific Ring of Fire?
Earthquake tracking website EarthquakeTrack has recorded an astounding 59,841 tremors around the globe in the last 365 days. In the last 30 days, a total of 4,172 tremors higher than magnitude 1.5 were felt and 895 hit in the last seven days. Today (December 9), a 5.6 magnitude quake was felt southwest of Africa – just one of 118 earthquakes globally.
The frequent eruption of earthquakes has prompted some to fear the arrival of the Big One.
Emma Scott wrote on Twitter: “Y’all. All of these earthquakes hitting around the world are giving me so much anxiety.
“I live like literally RIGHT on a fault line, and our last ‘big one’ was 1886 and we’re totally due for another and I’m just never going to sleep again okay thanks.”
Another person wrote on Twitter: “I grew up in a very earthquake prone city. You get used to them after a few years and the continued hope that it’s never a big one.”
One person also said: “#Earthquake Growing up I remember California having a decent sized quake every few years… I feel like they are way overdue, and that is bad news. Big One soon, or massive one later. Yikes.”
What is the Big One earthquake? Will it hit the Pacific Ring of Fire?
The Big One is a theoretical major earthquake of magnitude 8.0 or higher.
The Big One is expected to hit along the Pacific Ring of Fire, targeting the San Andreas Fault Line in California.
In 1906, San Francisco came close to a Big One when a magnitude 7.9 tremor devastated the city.
The major earthquake killed more than 3,000 people, injured 225,000 and left thousands homeless when it levelled the city.
According to the US Geological Service (USGS), there is a 31 percent chance a magnitude 7.5 earthquake could hit the Los Angeles area in the next 30 years.
It might happen today or tomorrow or in 100 years
Edwin Nissen, University of Victoria
There is also a 20 percent chance such a powerful quake will the San Francisco Bay area in the next 30 years.
Some scientists believe California is more than 200 years overdue for another Big One.
There is no evidence to suggest the Big One will strike US state or the Ring of Fire any time soon.
Ring of Fire: The earthquake hotspot runs along the rim of the Pacific (Image: USGS)
Unfortunately, geophysicist Edwin Nissen of the University of Victoria warned such earthquakes can strike without warning.
He told The Progress: “We can’t predict earthquakes and we are a million miles away from being able to.
The earthquake expert added: “It’s wrong to say the next earthquake is overdue.
“But it is correct to say it might happen tomorrow. It might happen today or tomorrow or in 100 years.”
The largest-ever earthquake peaked at magnitude 9.5 and hit Chile on May 22, 1960 – another country on the ominous Ring of Fire.
How often do major earthquakes strike each year?
According to the British Geological Survey (BGS), about 15 magnitude 7 or higher quakes hit the planet each year.
The exact number varies from year to year and in 2019, there have been six so far.
The BGS said: “Earthquake activity is controlled by the motion of the Earth’s tectonic plates, driven by heat generation from the decay of radioactive elements deep inside our planet.
“Thermodynamics requires that for more energy to come out of a system, more energy has to go in.
“A long term increase in earthquake activity would require an increase in the Earth’s internal energy supply, which would be difficult to account for.”
What is the Pacific Ring of Fire?
The Ring of Fire is a hotbed of earthquake and volcanic activity running along the rim of the Pacific Ocean.
The Ring of Fire covers the east coast of the US, the east coast of South America and is responsible for seismic activity in Japan.
The USGS said: “Most earthquakes and volcanic eruptions do not strike randomly but occur in specific areas, such as along plate boundaries.
“One such area is the circum-Pacific Ring of Fire, where the Pacific Plate meets many surrounding plates.
“The Ring of Fire is the most seismically and volcanically active zone in the world.”