2021 Year in Review – Earthquakes

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January: The year started off with a bang with a magnitude 6.7 on the 11th which caused limited damage in Mongolia. A 6.2 three days later in Indonesia quickly became a deadly earthquake when buildings collapsed and landslides ensued. The death toll currently stands at 108 with thousands of injuries. The month finished with a magnitude 7.0 to the north of the Talaud Islands which caused limited building damage, and a 6.9 in Antarctica.

February: February was a very active month starting off with a 6.7 well off the coast of Chile, damaging earthquakes in Guinea, Armenia, and the Philippines, as well as a non-damaging 6.3 in Papua New Guinea. Then, on the 10th, the Loyalty Islands unleashed a 7.7, the first of many strong earthquakes last year. It occurred as a result of reverse faulting on the New Hebrides Trench along the subduction interface in the area. No deaths or injuries occurred due to the remote location of the earthquake. Only two days later, Japan had its own earthquake. A magnitude 7.1 struck off the coast and caused intense shaking near the epicenter. Hundreds of people were injured, and one died. Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna recorded magnitude 6 earthquakes before the month finished.

March: Colombia had a deadly magnitude 5.1 on the first which caused limited injury. Greece suffered from a 6.3 near Tyrnavos which killed 1 and injured 11. The next day, New Zealand had a 7.3 earthquake near the North Island which caused some building damage. It occurred as a result of oblique reverse faulting between the Pacific and Australian plates. A few hours later, though, another large earthquake occurred. A magnitude 7.4 struck near the uninhabited island of Raoul in the Kermadec Islands region. That one caused no damage or deaths and its focal mechanism solution showed that it occurred as a result of reverse faulting at the Kermadec-Tonga subduction zone. This area is a long subduction zone capable of massive quakes. Like the one it produced only a couple of hours later. The colossal magnitude 8.1 was the largest earthquake the region had seen in over a century. It, too, occurred as a result of reverse faulting on the Tonga-Kermadec subduction interface. It caused a few injuries. The Kermadec Islands region continued to have multiple magnitude 6+ aftershocks for the next few days before starting to quiet down. The month ended on a sour note with a 7.0 aftershock of the Great East Japan Earthquake causing damage in Miyagi.

Linked Here: Force Thirteen Earthquakes Livestream coverage of the earthquake as it occurred.

April: April was a relatively quiet month with no magnitude 7s in an otherwise active year. A deadly earthquake in Java on the 10th claimed 10 lives and significantly damaged over 1000 buildings. There were a few magnitude 6s throughout the month but nothing notable except for a deadly magnitude 6.0 in Assam, India which claimed 2 lives.

May: May was also a moderately active month starting off with a 6.9 near Miyagi again, but luckily only a few were injured. There were multiple high magnitude 6s, but nothing interesting until the 21st. In China, a magnitude 6.2 in Yunnan caused multiple deaths and many injuries. This event was overshadowed by a more significant 7.3 only a few hundred miles away occurred a few hours later. The Maduo earthquake caused dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries and attained a maximum shaking intensity of X- The first and only occurrence of the year, and the first since the Aegean Sea earthquake the year prior. The month did finish off quietly though.

Watch Force Thirteen Earthquakes’ Highlight of the 7.3 Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCpRGhFN2aA

June: While June was a pretty quiet month, the Democratic Republic of the Congo had a magnitude 5.0 which killed 2 and injured 3. Peru had a 5.9 a couple weeks later which killed one and injured 20.

July: California experienced a magnitude 6.0 to start off the month, and Tajikistan had a deadly 5.7. The true highlight of the month was the biggest earthquake of the year. The enormous magnitude 8.2 earthquake occurred in a well known seismic gap in Alaska. It occurred on the subduction interface, so it was a result of reverse faulting. This area had only somewhat ruptured once in 1938, but the earthquake itself was the largest in America since 1965. Rounding off the month was an earthquake in Peru which killed none but injured almost a thousand.


The August 14th Haiti Earthquake resulted in significant structural damage to over 130,000 buildings, undoubtedly the most destructive quake of the whole year.

August: The Philippines got hit by a 7.1 on the 11th, resulting in one death. The largest earthquake of the month, however, occurred in the sparsely populated South Sandwich Islands. Initially reported as a 7.5, the South Sandwich Islands earthquake was discovered to actually be two: a 7.5 foreshock, and an 8.1 three minutes later. The rupture is complex, and the aftershocks are tremendous. So much so that it’s not worth mentioning at all. Only a couple days later, Haiti suffered from a devastating 7.2 earthquake which killed over 2 thousand, and injured over a dozen thousand. Luckily, despite being a larger earthquake than 2010, it was much further away from the capital. Rounding out the month there was a deadly earthquake in Indonesia killing one and injuring dozens.


September: On the 8th, a 7.0 occurred near Acapulco, Mexico and caused 13 people to lose their life and a further 23 to be injured. A week later, a 5.4 killed 3 and injured over a hundred in China. On the 21st, Australia experienced a rare 5.9 near Melbourne causing lots of damage. A little under a week later, Greece experienced a 6.0 which killed 1 and injured dozens.

October: Pakistan suffered from a magnitude 5.9 which killed 27 and injured hundreds. The next day, Tokyo strongly felt a 5.9 earthquake which caused the strongest shaking Tokyo had experienced since 2011. Indonesia got impacted by a deadly 4.7 which killed 3 and injured nearly 100.

November: In Iran, a powerful doublet caused 2 deaths and a hundred injuries. At the end of the month, Peru got smacked by a 7.5 which caused widespread shaking that led to a dozen deaths and over a hundred deaths.

December: In the middle of the month, Indonesia had a 7.3 along the Banda Sea-Timor plate boundary in the Flores Sea. It killed 1 and injured 100. At the end of the month, a much less injurious earthquake occurred along the same plate boundary with the same magnitude, 7.3, but this time near the Barat Daya islands. That rounds out the month of December.


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