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Cartograms: sixteen years of major earthquakes

  • Written by  Benjamin Hennig
  • Published in Tectonics
Cartograms: sixteen years of major earthquakes
08 Jul
Benjamin Hennig creates a series of cartograms to demonstrate the impact of the 439 major earthquakes which took place between 2001 and 2017

Earthquake WeekWhile predicting earthquakes still poses challenges, documenting earthquakes that have already happened has become a routine task, with a wide network of sensors and stations available around the globe that contribute to monitoring these seismic events. But not every earthquake also turns into a disaster; they only become hazards where humans are most affected. On the one hand, this is connected to population density, as where more people live, more people are also potentially affected. But other factors, such as housing and living conditions, as well as preparedness, also play a role.

The Emergency Events Database by Universite catholique de Louvain compiles data about disastrous earthquakes (and other disasters). This data is extracted and included in this cartogram series. For a disaster to be entered into the database at least one of the following criteria must be fulfilled: Ten or more people reported killed; one hundred or more people reported affected; declaration of a state of emergency; call for international assistance.

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Between 2001 and 2017 a total of 439 of such disastrous earthquakes were reported. These reflect the general global seismic activity quite well and the first cartogram below shows each country and region proportional to the total number of earthquake disasters according to these criteria.

When dissecting these into the various categories of impact, the picture changes. The next cartograms show the the total damages (quantified in US dollars), the number of affected people (151 million), the number of deaths (558,000), and the number of people who became homeless (11.8 million) as a result of the earthquakes in the same period. Each of these provides an insight into the changing nature of the impact earthquake’s have on people’s lives.

Disasterous Earthquakes 2001-2017

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The July 2019 issue of Geographical takes an in-depth look at the ways advancements in technology are improving the scientific art of earthquake detection. But will we ever be able to accurately predict these devastating incidents?
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