This Detailed Map Shows 119 Years of Earthquakes

Caitlin Dempsey


The USGS has released a highly detailed and updated map of seismicity from 1900 to 2018.

Earthquake data was used from the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) Combined Catalog (ComCat) which, in turn, collects information from multiple sources on earthquake locations, magnitudes, felt areas, and damage reports.

Available as a PDF, the layout is more in the form of a poster, with one main map, and two smaller maps.

Mapping the Earth’s Strong Earthquakes

The map poster’s intent is to provide a bigger picture look at strong earthquakes (defined as earthquakes with a magnitude of 5.5 or greater) in conjunction with the Earth’s plate tectonics.

The end result is a map filled with detailed information showing earthquake magnitude and depth, aftershock and rupture zones, faults, plate boundaries, and relative plate motion velocity.

The map poster was primarily created for Earth scientists, engineers, and educators, but it can be appreciated by anyone who has an interest in seismology.

The map layout contains a table listing the strongest earthquakes that have happened since 1900, all earthquakes with a magnitude of at least 8.3.

The main map is full of detail and there is a second map entitled, “Plates, Plate Boundaries, and Moment Release“. A closeup of the main map:

A third map shows the “Seismic Hazard Near Populated Areas“:

The entire map product can be accessed as a PDF (75.5 MB). The layout is quite large (75.50 x 46.00 inches) so it’s really intended to be printed out on a plotter to be appreciated in print.

Map of Seismicity

Hayes, G.P., Smoczyk, G.M., Villaseñor, A.H., Furlong, K.P., and Benz, H.M, 2020, Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2018: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3446, scale 1:22,500,000, [Supersedes USGS Scientific Investigations Map 3064.]


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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.

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