First the shocking statistics:
From 1979 to 1991 the number of large earthquakes (magnitude 7 or above) was stable at around 10 per year globally.
From 1992 to 2010 this rate increased to 12.5 a year.
From 2010 the average is 16.2 a year, which is a 65% increase over 1979.
If the first three months of this year are the new normal then the rate has again accelerated to around 20 per year.
That is the global picture. The US picture is worse. According the the US Geological Survey, the number of small to medium level earthquakes has increased five fold in 2011-13 over the 20 year average. Oklahoma alone has experienced over 2,300 earthquakes so far this year.
Something is happening that our best scientists cannot explain.
Some naive Christians will jump on this data and try to suggest it is a sign of “end times” (Matthew 24:7). Nothing could be further from the truth so please, don’t go there. Here are some much more likely answers.
1. The process of fracking to release shale gas and oil is a very likely culprit in the areas away from tectonic plates, as in Oklahoma.
2. The release of ice from globally significant ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica has taken massive pressure off the underlying plates and transferred this weight to the thin plates under the oceans. Since the Ice Age these ice caps have had time to settle and stabilise the plates underneath them. This is now reversing with climate change. One plate loses weight and floats up a little on its underlying bed of liquid and the other plate sinks down. This creates shear stress.
The rise in sea levels is accelerating rapidly at present and this fits neatly with the acceleration in seismic activity. Antarctic ice losses have doubled to 159 billion tonnes a year in the last five years, and the rate is still accelerating. Because of all this extra water in the oceans, we have seen oceans rise just over 20cm since 1870. The seas are currently rising by 3mm a year and accelerating. Predictions from the IPCC are for oceans to rise at least another half meter by the end of this century. Imagine what that extra weight is going to do for earthquake activity!
I cannot prove this theory of course, and scientists have not yet pointed the finger, but many of them are having this very discussion with their colleagues.
So do not listen to the doomsday Christians who harp on about signs of the end times. This is man-made and humans will have to adjust, cope and eventually fix it. After all, wasn’t it the job of Adam to look after the earth?