More Earthquake Data Does Not Mean More Earthquakes

Following a magnitude 8.8 earthquake on February 27, 2010, Chile experienced a 7.2 magnitude aftershock on March 11, the same day that President Sebastian Pinera was sworn into office.1 Considering the size of the initial earthquake, it is no surprise that the aftershock was significantly powerful, and more strong aftershocks remain likely.

These recent events have made some people curious about any connection between current earthquakes and various predictions of earth’s final days. Do the apparently increasing number of earthquakes foreshadow a divine judgment?

On the surface, earthquake data compiled by the United States Geological Survey appear to show a sharp increase in the number of earthquakes in recent decades.2 During the 1990s, fewer than 200,000 earthquakes were recorded in the world. From January 2000 until March 2010, almost 275,000 earthquakes were recorded.

However, the increased number of recorded quakes does not correspond with an increase in seismic activity. Rather, it is due to the proliferation of seismometers deployed worldwide over the last few decades. A USGS fact sheet reminds readers that “as more and more seismographs are installed in the world, more earthquakes can be and have been located.”3

Geologist Steve Austin reviewed similar earthquake data from the 20th century.4 He found that there was a decrease in the number of magnitude 7.0 or higher earthquakes in the latter half of the century. Thus, either secularly or religiously motivated apocalyptic claims that are based on increasing numbers of earthquakes in general, or on increasing numbers of major earthquakes, stand on shaky ground.

Although there are no instruments that can accurately predict the imminence of any major reworking of earth’s surface, there is solid teaching from the Bible. The Revelation of future events given to the apostle John describes a coming earthquake greater than any that occurred before.5 It will come as part of God’s judgment on sinful mankind and will destroy “the cities of the nations”6 in preparation of the earth for its rightful king, Jesus Christ the Creator.

References

  1. Long, G. New earthquake strikes Chile as billionaire Sebastian Pinera is sworn in as President. The Independent. Posted on independent.co.uk March 12, 2010, accessed March 12, 2010.
  2. Compare Number of Earthquakes Worldwide for 1990-1999 with Number of Earthquakes Worldwide for 2000-2010. U.S. Geological Survey fact sheets. Posted on earthquake.usgs.gov, accessed March 15, 2010.
  3. Earthquake Facts and Statistics. U.S. Geological Survey fact sheet. Posted on earthquake.usgs.gov, accessed March 15, 2010.
  4. Austin, S. A. 1998. Twentieth Century Earthquakes – Confronting an Urban Legend. Acts & Facts 27 (1). Similar results were published in Austin, S. A. and M. L. Strauss 1999. Are Earthquakes Signs of the End Times?: A Geological and Biblical Response to an Urban Legend. Christian Research Journal. 21(4): 30-39.
  5. Revelation 16:18.
  6. Revelation 16:19.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on March 23, 2010.

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