Are there more earthquakes now?

Is it true that there are more earthquakes now than in the past, and that they are more intense? We explore the problem in this Question of the Week.
13 June 2011
Presented by Diana O'Carroll

SAN-ANDREAS-FAULT

San Andreas Fault in the Carrizo Plain, aerial view from 8500 feet altitude

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Is it true that there are more earthquakes now than in the past, and that they are more intense? We explore the problem in this Question of the Week. Plus, we ask if non-coding DNA has a purpose.

In this episode

A man exits a restaurant after he looked for his belongings. An earthquake rocked Port au Prince on January 12, 2010.

00:00 - Have earthquakes been more frequent recently?

Have earthquakes been more frequent recently? If so, is there a reason, or is this just coincidence?

Have earthquakes been more frequent recently?

We posed this question to Gopal Madabhushi from the University of Cambridge...

Gopal - Hello. This is (Gopal Marbushi). I'm a reader in geotechnical engineering at the University of Cambridge. It is true that large earthquakes have happened in close succession recently. For example, two larger plates in Christchurch in New Zealand and a very large earthquake in Japan. However, the fault systems in Japan and New Zealand are quite separate and there are no interconnections between them so, the earthquakes occurring together is a pure coincidence. Having said that, the two earthquakes near Christchurch may be interconnected, with stress release from one fault affecting the other. If you live in a seismic area, it is always better to consider earthquake proofing your house. Diana - Earthquakes haven't occurred anymore in the last 20 years than they have done over the last century, but we have far more seismograph stations and much better methods of reporting communication and accessible news. So, we're being deluged with more stories about earthquakes which we know a lot more about. Plus, there are many more people in the world now who can be affected by such earthquakes.

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