It seems that every few months we hear of another major earthquake in some part of the world.
What is a "normal" amount of earthquakes? How many major and great earthquakes have occurred in the 21st century? Are major earthquakes increasing? Might human beings be causing earthquakes? What does the Bible teach about earthquakes? What did Jesus teach about earthquakes? What does the Book of Revelation teach about earthquakes? Does the Bible predict the big one? Are the recent earthquakes indications that Bible prophecy is being fulfilled? Where are earthquakes happening now? Where are earthquakes today?
This article will attempt to provide solid answers to each of these questions.
The amount of 'normal' earthquakes varies depending upon the size and location.
Based on records kept since 1900, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) expects a yearly total of about 17-20 major earthquakes and less than one great earthquake.
Major earthquakes are defined as those between 7.0 and 7.9 on the Richter scale, while great earthquakes are classified as 8.0 and above (Cherundolo G. Are Earthquakes Really Increasing? March 9, 2010. http://www.accuweather.com/blogs/news/story/25904/has-the-number-of-earthquakes.asp).
Earthquake Magnitude Scale
Magnitude Earthquake Effects Estimated Number
2.5 or less Usually not felt, but can be recorded by seismograph. 900,000 2.5 to 5.4 Often felt, but only causes minor damage. 30,000 5.5 to 6.0 Slight damage to buildings and other structures. 500 6.1 to 6.9 May cause a lot of damage in very populated areas. 100 7.0 to 7.9 Major earthquake. Serious damage. 20 8.0 or greater Great earthquake. Can totally destroy communities near the epicenter. One every 5 to 10 years
Earthquake Magnitude Classes
Earthquakes are also classified in categories ranging from minor to great, depending on their magnitude.
Class Magnitude Great 8 or more Major 7 - 7.9 Strong 6 - 6.9 Moderate 5 - 5.9 Light 4 - 4.9 Minor 3 -3.9
http://www.geo.mtu.edu/UPSeis/magnitude.html viewed 08/27/14
There seemed to have been an increase in earthquakes around 1900 as well as 1940, and lately. This means that though there are averages, some periods of time end up with more as the USGS indicates that earthquakes often come in "clusters" (Cherundolo G. Are Earthquakes Really Increasing? March 9, 2010. http://www.accuweather.com/blogs/news/story/25904/has-the-number-of-earthquakes.asp).
Here is a report about the massive increases in parts of the USA:
Within the central and eastern United States, the number of earthquakes has increased dramatically over the past few years. Between the years 1973–2008, there was an average of 21 earthquakes of magnitude three and larger in the central and eastern United States. This rate jumped to an average of 99 M3+ earthquakes per year in 2009–2013, and the rate continues to rise. In 2014, alone, there were 659 M3 and larger earthquakes. (Posted April 20, 2015 http://earthquake.usgs.gov/research/induced/)
So, the USA used to average 21 earthquakes of a magnitude of 3.0 or larger in its central region, but there were 659 in 2014. This is a massive increase.
Furthermore, more severe earthquakes are coming.
Various sources track earthquakes.
Here is a link to a list of earthquakes for every year this century:
From April 2010 to March 2011, I counted that there were 16 major and 1 great earthquakes.
From April 2011 to March 2012, I counted that there were 14 major and 0 great earthquakes.
From April 2012 to March 2013, I counted that there were 13 major and 3 great earthquakes.
From April 2013 to March 2014, I counted that there were 13 major and 1 great earthquakes.
From April 2014 to March 2015, I counted that there were 14 major and 1 great earthquakes.
From April 2015 to March 2016, I counted that there were 17 major and 1 great earthquakes.
In the past nine years or so, there were about 15 USGS defined great earthquakes. This exceeds the 'norm.'
Roger Meyers reported the following about the power and frequency of earthquakes on March 29, 2011:
The old Richter scale has been replaced with the Moment Magnitude scale, though results are usually similar to the Richter scale. Either earthquake measuring scale is somewhat misleading if you aren’t familiar with it. For instance, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake produces 10 times more ground motion than a magnitude 6.2 earthquake, but the energy released is 32 times greater. But the energy released in an 8.2 magnitude quake is 1000 times more than the 6.2 magnitude quake...
The United States Geological Service records hundreds of thousands of earthquakes that occur every year, though most of these aren’t noticed because they are so small in magnitude. In the last 30 days, there were roughly 400 earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 or greater. The earth is doing a lot of shaking and quaking! (Meyers R. Earthquakes in diverse places. Commentary, March 29, 2011)
In 2011, there were more earthquakes in the of 5.0-6.9 range per the USGS (http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eqarchives/year/eqstats.php).
The rate of earthquakes has accelerated greatly in certain areas since 2009:
A new United States Geological Survey study has found that middle America between Alabama and Montana is experiencing an "unprecedented" and "almost certainly manmade" increase in earthquakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater. In 2011, there were 134 events of that size. That's six times more than were normally seen during the 20th century. While the changes in the area's seismicity began in 2001, the trend has really accelerated since 2009, the geologists note. (Madrigal A. Middle America Is Experiencing a Massive Increase in 3.0+ Earthquakes. The Atlantic, April 6, 2012. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/middle-america-is-experiencing-a-massive-increase-in-30-earthquakes/255568/
A record earthquake occured on April 11, 2012 and seems to be part of an accerating trend:
LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Four large earthquakes struck around the Pacific Rim Wednesday with one setting a record, as the most powerful strike-slip quake ever recorded. (Cluster Of Large Quakes Serve As Reminder For Preparedness. April 12, 2012. http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2012/04/12/cluster-of-large-quakes-serve-as-reminder-for-preparedness/)
In 2001, there were 137 earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 or greater and in 2011 there were 205...a magnitude 8.6 earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia and that was rapidly followed by a magnitude 8.2 earthquake off the coast of Indonesia...Normally we only see about one earthquake of magnitude 8.0 or greater per year. The magnitude 8.6 earthquake was the most powerful strike-slip earthquake in recorded history. If that earthquake had happened in the United States, it would have probably been the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. (Ring Of Fire Is Roaring To Life and Earthquakes Of Historic Importance: US West Coast. American Dream, April 17, 2011. http://www.rightsidenews.com/2012041716064/life-and-science/energy-and-environment/ring-of-fire-is-roaring-to-life-and-earthquakes-of-historic-importance-us-west-coast.html)
In less than a day in Iceland in 2014, there were at least 500 earthquakes (see 500 earthquakes hit Iceland, today).
October 22, 2015
LOS ANGELES -- There is a 99.9 percent chance of a magnitude-5 or greater earthquake striking within three years in the greater Los Angeles area, where a similar sized temblor caused more the $12 million in damage last year, according to a study by NASA and university researchers.
The study released Tuesday was based on Global Positioning System and airborne radar measurements of how the Earth's crust was deformed by the magnitude-5.1 quake on March 28, 2014, in La Habra, southeast of downtown Los Angeles. Damage included broken water mains and cracked pavement. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/new-study-says-99-percent-probability-of-los-angeles-area-quake/
Earthquake dangers seem to be rising.
Thus far, history indicates that the deadliest earthquakes have affected China and Indonesia. Here is information on what are believed to be the three deadliest earthquakes in recorded history:
Deadliest Earthquake - Jan 23, 1556 The [magnitude 8] earthquake occurred near Huaxian, Shaanxi (formerly Shensi), China, about 50 miles east-northeast of Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi. More than 830,000 people were killed. http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/world/most_destructive.php
Tangshan, China - July 28, 1976 This earthquake occurred in the northeastern part of China, near the coast. The epicenter was centered about 140 kilometers southeast of Beijing, in the vicinity of Tangshan. The first earthquake, magnitude 7.5, was followed by a major aftershock 15 hours later. According to official sources, the two earthquakes killed over 240,000 people, although some estimates of the death toll are as high as 655,000. Over 799,000 people were injured. Aftershocks in the 5.0-5.5 range continued after the main shock. Damage extended as far as Beijing. This is probably the greatest death toll from an earthquake in the last four centuries, and the second greatest in recorded history.
Sumatra Earthquake, Tsunami - Dec 26, 2004 This is the third largest earthquake in the world since 1900 [magnitude 9.1] and is the largest since the 1964 Prince William Sound, Alaska earthquake. In total, 227,898 people were killed or were missing and presumed dead and about 1.7 million people were displaced by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 14 countries in South Asia and East Africa. (In January 2005, the death toll was 286,000. In April 2005, Indonesia reduced its estimate for the number missing by over 50,000.) USGS Full list at http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/world/events/1976_07_27.php
Earthquakes have killed many, and are expected to kill many more.
While there is no doubt that how well buildings are made affects how many buildings survive earthquakes and thus at least indirectly, how well human beings survive earthquakes, some feel that people have more to do with earthquakes than commonly believed.
Could human activity be doing anything that could possibly be contributing to earthquakes? While most geologists do not promote the theory, there are those that believe that human activity may be contributing to at least some earthquakes.
Specifically, the drilling for oil, methane, and other substances creates empty pockets that are susceptible to collapse. Furthermore, some believe that deep drilling itself can cause or contribute to "cracks" that ultimately can result in earthquakes. Notice the following from a self-described investigator:
Drilling and Earthquakes
16 June 2004: US Department of Energy meeting summary: "Alternatively, an undersea earthquake today, say off the Blake Ridge or the coast of Japan or California might loosen and cause some of the sediment to slide down the ridge or slump, exposing the hydrate layer to the warmer water. That in turn could cause a chain reaction of events, leading to the release of massive quantities of methane. Another possibility is drilling and other activities related to exploration and recovery of methane hydrates as an energy resource..."
1 February 2011: "Seabed drilling exploration for methane hydrate in coastal waters, utilizing a world-class deep sea exploration vessel, is scheduled to start Saturday. In the planned exploration, the Chikyu is expected to drill 100 meters to 400 meters into the seabed, which lies at a depth of 700 meters to 1,000 meters. The geological structure of layers surrounding the hydrate, and the degree of stability regarding drill holes and pipes, are among the subjects to be surveyed. The Chikyu uses state-of-the-art equipment able to drill as deep as 7,000 meters under the seabed."
On 11 March 2011, the world witnessed one of the most powerful earthquakes since 1900, devastating the country of Japan...
On 7 March 2011, in response to the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission, two US gas drilling companies agreed to suspend specific operations at wells near Arkansas after their work was linked to nearby earthquakes...
Is it possible, that either of the massive earthquakes which devastated Japan and New Zealand, can be connected to invasive deep drilling?
(Morningstar C. Are we there yet? Drilling and Earthquakes. Sunday, March 27, 2011. http://www.huntingtonnews.net/2768
While humans do not think that they cause earthquakes, simply concentrating the construction of multiple buildings along the coastlines would also seem to change the dynamics of mass on the earth and perhaps be the proverbial "last straw" to trigger an earthquake. Even blasting off rockets affects the earth.
Hence, while I am not claiming that drilling for methane hydrate caused Japan's 9.0 earthquake, it seems that human activity may sometimes be a factor in some earthquakes.
Notice also the following:
September 20, 2015
Crescent (United States) (AFP) - The central US state of Oklahoma has gone from registering two earthquakes a year to nearly two a day and scientists point to a controversial culprit: wastewater injection wells used in fracking.
Located in the middle of the country, far from any major fault lines, Oklahoma experienced 585 earthquakes of a magnitude of 3.0 or greater in 2014. That's more than three times as many as the 180 which hit California last year. http://news.yahoo.com/one-us-state-went-two-quakes-585-054259418.html?soc_src=mail&soc_trk=ma
September 11, 2016
Oklahoma is the most earthquake-prone state in the continental U.S. What’s more astonishing is that nearly all of Oklahoma’s earthquakes are man-made. They are being triggered by the biggest and most important industry in the state: oil and gas production but it’s not from fracking, which is what most people think. Before 2009, there were, on average, two earthquakes a year in Oklahoma that were magnitude 3 or greater. Last year, there were 907. That’s right, 907. ...
Katie Keranen: Even over four days, we actually see many dozens of earthquakes.
Bill Whitaker: Many dozens?
Katie Keranen: That’s right.
Keranen was among the first scientists to link the earthquakes to oil and gas production.
Bill Whitaker: These are man-made earthquakes.
Katie Keranen: Most people feel that the majority of these are linked to this water being disposed.
The water that’s causing the earthquakes is not from fracking -- which is water and chemicals pumped underground to free up oil and gas. This is naturally occurring water that’s been trapped below ground with the petroleum for millions of years.
Bill Whitaker: This is the oil being pumped out?
Gary LaRue: Oil, gas and water. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-oklahoma-rise-in-quakes-linked-to-man-made-causes-2/
Some earthquake rises appear to have a human connection.
Jesus discussed earthquakes in His Olivet prophecy (a series of prophetic statements He made on the Mount of Olives).
Jesus taught that prior to the great tribulation, during a time called "the beginning of sorrows", that His followers would notice earthquakes:
7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Matthew 24:7-8, NKJV throughout unless otherwise indicated).
8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows. (Mark 13:8)
11 And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. (Luke 21:11)
Now, these earthquakes happen prior to the start of the Great Tribulation (which is listed as beginning in Matthew 24:21, Mark 13:19, and Luke 21:23). More information on the Great Tribulation and the "beginning of sorrows" can be found in the article Can the Great Tribulation Begin in 2015, 2016, or 2017? For years, I have wondered if the "beginning of sorrows" began in 2009, and the acceleration of certain earthquakes may be confirming that.
Notice that in Luke's account "great earthquakes" are mentioned. Considering the death toll from Haiti's 7.0 earthquake in 2010, it would seem that Jesus may have considered that earthquakes of that magnitude (or perhaps even a bit smaller) were great earthquakes (the USGS definition standards on classification are a relatively recent development).
Perhaps it should be mentioned that there was an earthquake when Jesus was crucified (Matthew 27:54), plus the Bible records that there was a great earthquake that removed the stone from His tomb (Matthew 28:2) and another one that freed Paul and Silas from prison (Acts 16:26). Earthquakes are mentioned in the Bible and prophesied in the Bible.
Jesus also taught more about earthquakes throughout the Book of Revelation (also known as the Book of the Apocalypse). One aspect of them in Revelation is that the term for earthquake is always singular in it, as opposed to the plural term for earthquakes that were associated with the beginning of sorrows that Jesus referred to during His Mount of Olives discourse.
Here is the first time an earthquake is mentioned in Revelation:
5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:5)
This particular earthquake happens after the great tribulation began and is just prior to the start of the day of the Lord. Many people consider that when the earth quakes, it may be apocalyptic.
The next mentioned earthquake may be the second to last sequentially:
11 Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here." And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. 13 In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven. (Revelation 11:11-13)
The above earthquake happens the same hour that the two witnesses are raised by God. It seems to be a localized quake and this occurs near the end of the "Day of the Lord" (which is also discussed in the article Can the Great Tribulation Begin in 2015, 2016, or 2017?). More on the two witnesses can be found in the article Who Are The Two Witnesses?
The next mentioned earthquake may be the last sequentially and if so, may tie to the one in Revelation 16:18:
19 Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail. (Revelation 11:19)
Because there was an earthquake during the crucifixion which coincided with a local resurrection, it may be that this earthquake will coincide with the resurrection of Christians, called the first resurrection in Revelation 20:5.
There is a prophecy of an earthquake hitting the land of Israel in the "latter days."
Ezekiel 38 teaches:
19 For in My jealousy and in the fire of My wrath I have spoken: 'Surely in that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel (Ezekiel 38:19).
As this earthquake is specific to the land of Israel, it is NOT the great earthquake of Revelation 16:18. As this prophecy is when Israel is dwelling safely (Ezekiel 38:8,11,14), at the when when "all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates" (Ezekiel 38:11), this is not for the early 21st century. This occurs sometime after Jesus returns. More details on that can be found in the article Ezekiel 38: For Russia & Iran in Our Day?.
The Bible teaches that God controls the weather (Psalm 147:17-18; 148:7-8; see a Weather Blessings and Sorrows).
After Japan had a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011, Tokyo’s governor Ishihara initially referred to the events as tembatsu—or “divine judgment.” Although he later apologized for his religious-sounding comments, many around the globe agreed with his initial assessment. One poll in the USA revealed that about 40% view natural disasters as “a sign from God.” That number is close to 60% among Evangelicals, but drops significantly among Catholics and non-Evangelical Protestants (Foxnews.com, March 24, 2011).
Earthquakes were something that Jesus warned about. And while not all earthquakes are a sign of God's punishment, a great one is coming that may shake many into realizing that God is sovereign and to fear His wrath (Revelation 16:18-19). More on weather can be found in the article Weather Blessings and Sorrows.
Does the Bible predict the big one, an earthquake bigger than most geologists think possible?
Well, living in California, we often hear the idea that the "big one" an enormous earthquake will some day take place. In March 2011, when I saw "experts" discussing this, they indicated that it was not possible to have an earthquake along the San Andreas fault greater than about an 7.5-8.5 magnitude because of how the fault is laid out.
And while some in California might find that a little reassuring, the Bible speaks of a bigger earthquake ultimately coming. And California may have one or more "big ones" before this happens.
According to the Roman historian Pliny the Elder, the Lydia earthquake of 17 A.D. was the "greatest earthquake in human memory" (Keitel, E. "Tacitus and the Disaster Narrative". In Kraus C.S., Marincola J. & Pelling C. Ancient Historiography and Its Contexts: Studies in Honour of A. J. Woodman. Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 335. ISBN 9780191614095). But a bigger one is coming.
The real big earthquake in biblical prophecy is the following one:
18 And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. 19 Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. 20 Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. (Revelation 16:18-20)
Notice that the above earthquake is so big that the cities of the nations will fall. Mountains will be leveled and islands "fled away" (more on this can be found in the article Islands and Bible Prophecy). This seems to be the biggest earthquake that will ever hit the planet with humans on it. Despite the view of 'preterists' that this already happened (see The Dangerous Rise of Preterists), that is nonsense.
The earthquake of Revelation 16 will be bigger than what the usual "experts" have believed was possible. It will change the planet and humble parts of humanity.
It should be noted since that apparently biggest of all earthquakes seems to take place near the end of the Day of the Lord, it probably cannot happen prior to 2021 (for more on why as well as dates, please see the articles When Can the Great Tribulation Begin? and Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan? What Year Does the 6,000 Years End?).
More are subject to earthquakes than have thought they were. Notice two 2014 reports:
Earthquake Risks Higher Than Once Believed For Many Cities"Live in Las Vegas, Seattle or Charleston, South Carolina? New science shows those areas are among many geologic hot spots with greater threats for heavier earthquakes than once believed." NBC News http://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/earthquake-risks-higher-once-believed-many-cities-usgs-n158506
Risk of earthquake increased for about half of USJuly 17, 2014A new federal earthquake map dials up the shaking hazard just a bit for about half of the United States and lowers it for nearly a quarter of the nation.
The U.S. Geologic Survey updated Thursday its national seismic hazard maps for the first time since 2008, taking into account research from the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami off the Japanese coast and the surprise 2011 Virginia temblor.
Most of the changes are slight. Project chief Mark Petersen said parts of Washington, Oregon, Utah, Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming and Tennessee moved into the top two hazard zones.
Parts of 16 states have the highest risk for earthquakes: Alaska, Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Illinois, Kentucky and South Carolina.
Earthquakes can occur in places that many do not expect.
Is Bible prophecy being fulfilled?
Well there certainly have been great earthquakes in various (diverse, KJV) places.
The reality is that in the past 67 years there have been substantially more "great" earthquakes than the prior 67 years.
In the past year or so, there were substantially more major earthquakes than the prior year or so.
An increase in seismic activity is consistent with biblical prophecy.
Early Christians (and the more faithful of the modern ones) believed and taught that God gave humans 6000 years to live outside the Kingdom of God, followed by the Day of the Lord, and then the return of Jesus Christ, who would reign with His saints for a thousand years. According to various chronologies that I have viewed (see Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan? What Year Does the 6,000 Years End?), the six thousand years is about up.
So, this suggests that the recent earthquakes probably are in fulfillment of Jesus' prophecies and that we are within only a few years of the start of the Great Tribulation and that Jesus may return by the end of the next decade (When Can the Great Tribulation Begin).
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Thiel B. Earthquakes Today and Bible Prophecy: Has there been an increase in major earthquakes? www.cogwriter.com/earthquakes-today.php COGwriter, 2011/2012/2013/2014/2015/2016 0917