Shop Windows to the Universe

We now offer the Cool It! card game in our Science Store. Cool It! is the new card game from UCS that teaches kids about the choices we have when it comes to climate change.
This animated map shows where on Earth earthquakes occurred between 1960 and 1995. Each earthquake is shown as a yellow dot.
Courtesy of NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

Where Do Earthquakes Happen?

The animation at the left shows where in the world earthquakes happen. Earthquakes are shown on the map as yellow dots. Do you see a pattern to where the dots are found?

Some areas have many earthquakes while other areas have few. Earthquakes happen when rock moves suddenly. Usually this happens along cracks in Earth’s crust called faults. There are many faults at the breaks between Earth’s tectonic plates. Since earthquakes happen along faults and most faults are near plate boundaries, the yellow dots in the animation are found mostly at the boundaries between Earth’s tectonic plates.

While it is not as common, there are also some faults in the middle of tectonic plates. Movement along those faults can cause earthquakes too. For example, many strong earthquakes shook the Mississippi River Valley between December 1811 and March 1812. This area is in the middle of the North American plate, but there is a large fault there called the New Madrid Fault.

Last modified January 19, 2010 by Randy Russell.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Print copies of Spring 2011 issue of The Earth Scientist, focusing on modernizing classroom seismology education, are available in our online store. Thanks to IRIS, the issue is also available as a free pdf online at NESTA!

Windows to the Universe Community



You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

What Is an Earthquake?

The ground underfoot might seem like it’s not going anywhere but it is. It moves. If it moves all of a sudden the ground shakes. That’s an earthquake! Earthquakes happen as pieces of the Earth’s crust...more

Plate Tectonics

Many forces change the surface of the Earth over time. The largest force that changes our planet’s surface is movement of Earth's outer layer in a process called plate tectonics. As shown in this picture,...more

Seismic Waves: Moving and Shaking During an Earthquake

During an earthquake, the ground shakes making it difficult or impossible to stand up without falling. The land can also roll in waves – sinking in some places and rising in others. How does all this moving...more

How Do Plates Move?

Plates at our planet’s surface move because heat in the Earth’s core causes molten rock in the mantle layer to flow. We used to think the Earth’s plates just surfed on top of the moving mantle, but now...more

The Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906

Most people in San Francisco, CA were still asleep when an earthquake shook them awake early in the morning of April 18, 1906. It was a very strong earthquake. It lasted for only about a minute, but caused...more

What’s That Mineral?

Spotting minerals is fun! There are many different types of minerals. Each has a different name and special traits. You can learn more about minerals by looking closely at them to understand their special...more


This mineral is called quartz! Sometimes it looks white like milk but usually it looks clear like glass, sometimes with a little pink or gray tinge of color. You can find crystals of quartz in many different...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF