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 April 29, 2016 by Jennifer Bergman.

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