Earthquake Hazards Program

FAQ

Have questions? The answer is probably here!

What is a hotspot and how do you know it's there?

Most volcanic eruptions occur near the boundaries of tectonic plates, but there are some exceptions. In the interior of some tectonic plates, magma has been erupting from a relatively fixed spot below the plate for millions of years. As the plate continuously moves across that spot, a trail of progressively older volcanic deposits is left at the...

Where can I find earthquake educational materials?

Start with our Earthquake Hazards Education site. That includes: Earthquakes for Kids Cool Earthquake Facts Earthquake Science for Everyone Other good starting points include: State Geological Surveys for states in earthquake-prone regions The Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills website IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology), which...

Where can I find current earthquake lists and maps for the world or for a specific area?

The Earthquake Hazards Program Latest Earthquakes Map displays earthquakes in near-realtime and up to the past 30 days of earthquakes. The interface includes three panels: a list of earthquakes, a map, and a settings/options panel. You can pan and zoom the map to view specific areas. Click on an event on the list or map for additional information...

Did I feel an earthquake? Can I report feeling an earthquake?

Report an earthquake experience or related observation through the Did You Feel It? citizen science webpage. The best way to do this is to click on the earthquake that you think you felt on one of the lists on the Earthquakes webpage, and then select the "Tell Us!" link. If you don't see the earthquake you think you felt, use the green "Report an...

Why is the earthquake that was reported/recorded by network X, or that I felt, not on the Latest Earthquakes map/list?

The USGS Latest Earthquakes map and lists show events that have been located by the USGS and contributing agencies within the last 30 days. They should NOT be considered complete lists of all events in the U.S. and adjacent areas and especially should NOT be considered complete lists of all magnitude 4.5 and greater events that occur around the...

Why do some earthquakes disappear from the map/list?

The USGS and networks contributing to the Advance National Seismic System (ANSS) take great effort to provide accurate and timely earthquake information. Occasionally our systems produce erroneous information that is released to the public via our web pages or Earthquake Notification System . These mistakes are generally promptly identified by...

What is UTC, and why do you report earthquakes in UTC?

UTC stands for Coordinated Universal Time, and for this purpose is the same as GMT ( Greenwich Mean Time). Since the USGS and other seismic network agencies record earthquakes around the globe in all the various time zones, using a single standard time reference is best for record-keeping and exchange of data. The individual event pages with...

Why isn't the fault on which the earthquake occurred or the distance to the nearest fault provided?

Seismologists evaluate the hypocenter location and the focal mechanism of an earthquake to decide if the earthquake occurs on a named fault. Research shows that many earthquakes occur on small, un-named faults located near well-known faults. For example, most of the aftershocks of the 1989 M6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake occurred on small, subsidiary...

Can I get on a list to receive an email message when there is an earthquake? How do I sign up for earthquake notifications?  Are there any Feeds I can subscribe to?

Yes, please go to the USGS Earthquake Notification Services (ENS) to sign up for free emails or text messages to your phone. Use the default settings or customize ENS to fit your needs. Also check out the many different Earthquake Feeds .

Why/When does the USGS update the magnitude of an earthquake?

The USGS often updates an earthquake's magnitude in the hours and sometimes days following the event. Updates occur as more data become available for analysis and more time-intensive analysis is performed. Additional updates are possible as part of the standard procedure of assembling a final earthquake catalog. There are physical and operational...

Why do so many earthquakes occur at a depth of 10km?

Ten kilometers is a "fixed depth". Sometimes data are too poor to compute a reliable depth for an earthquake. In such cases, the depth is assigned to be 10 km. Why that number? In many areas around the world, reliable depths tend to average 10 km or close to it. For example, if we made a histogram of the reliable depths in such an area, we'd...

How quickly is earthquake information posted to the USGS website and sent out via the Earthquake Notification Service (ENS) and other feeds?

USGS earthquake information mechanisms are all triggered by the same system, so they all receive the information at the same time. The time it takes for the system to receive the information primarily depends on the size and location of the earthquake: An earthquake in California is processed and posted to the system in 2.5 minutes (on average)...

Where can I see current or past seismograms?

The USGS Earthquake Hazards Program has helicorders (seismogram displays) available for several areas in the United States and the World. Our research partner IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology) has two applications, the Station Monitor and the Global Seismogram Viewer , for viewing seismograms. IRIS also supplies software...

Why do USGS earthquake magnitudes differ from those published by other agencies?

Magnitude estimates for a given earthquake can vary between reporting agencies due to differences in methodology, data availability, and inherent uncertainties in seismic data. Individual agencies use magnitude estimation procedures designed to meet the agency's specific needs and monitoring capabilities. Even for well-recorded events, differences...

How do you determine the place name for an earthquake?

For the automated naming of earthquakes we use a GeoNames dataset to reference populated places that are in close proximity to a seismic event. GeoNames has compiled a list of cities in the United States where the population is 1,000 or greater (cities1000.txt). This is the primary list that we use when selecting nearby places. In order to provide...

Does the Latest Earthquakes map show non-earthquake seismic events?

In addition to naturally occurring earthquakes, human activities such as mining and construction blasts can sometimes produce seismic waves large enough to be detected on the USGS national seismic network. These artificially-generated events have a different seismic ‘fingerprint’ from tectonic earthquakes, so they can be discerned by a...

How do I sign up for the ShakeAlert® Earthquake Early Warning System?

The USGS issues ShakeAlert ® Messages but alert delivery will come by other public and private means (internet, radio, television, cellular), including Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) -- think of an AMBER Alert -- delivered by FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) . Alert delivery via the WEA system is available in California,...

How are earthquakes recorded? How are earthquakes measured? How is the magnitude of an earthquake determined?

Earthquakes are recorded by a seismographic network . Each seismic station in the network measures the movement of the ground at that site. The slip of one block of rock over another in an earthquake releases energy that makes the ground vibrate. That vibration pushes the adjoining piece of ground and causes it to vibrate, and thus the energy...

Moment magnitude, Richter scale - what are the different magnitude scales, and why are there so many?

Earthquake size, as measured by the Richter Scale is a well known, but not well understood, concept. The idea of a logarithmic earthquake magnitude scale was first developed by Charles Richter in the 1930's for measuring the size of earthquakes occurring in southern California using relatively high-frequency data from nearby seismograph stations...

What is the difference between earthquake magnitude and earthquake intensity? What is the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale?

Magnitude scales , like the moment magnitude, measure the size of the earthquake at its source. An earthquake has one magnitude. The magnitude does not depend on where the measurement is made. Often, several slightly different magnitudes are reported for an earthquake. This happens because the relation between the seismic measurements and the...