2014 Earthquakes - a quiet year for Australia

07 May 2015

2014 was a relatively quiet year for Australian earthquakes. Most earthquake events measured less than magnitude 4, which is considered small and unlikely to cause damage.

Only seven earthquakes in 2014 were magnitude 4.0 or larger and these were felt throughout the regions in which they occurred. Although Australia, on average, tends to get one magnitude 5 per year, no earthquakes magnitude 5 or greater occurred in 2014.

Australia's largest earthquake in 2014 occurred near Yunta in South Australia on 29 April. This magnitude 4.7 earthquake was strongly felt in the region stretching from Adelaide in the south across to Broken Hill, New South Wales in the east. This was the largest earthquake in the region for nearly 20 years; the previous largest was a magnitude 5.1 earthquake that occurred south of Burra, South Australia on 5 March 1997.

Overall, Geoscience Australia observed 636 earthquakes nationally during 2014. As in previous years, Western Australia was the most seismically active state, experiencing 328 earthquakes over this period, with 5 events of magnitude 4 or above. The next most seismically active states were South Australia, with 132 earthquakes, and New South Wales, with 108 earthquakes.

"We don't tend to experience large earthquakes often in Australia as we do not sit on the edge of a tectonic plate, where larger earthquakes are more frequently experienced," Geoscience Australia duty seismologist Hugh Glanville said.

"Australia's earthquakes are caused by the Australian plate being pushed northeast at about 8cm per year, colliding with the Eurasian, Philippine and Pacific plates. This movement causes the build-up of stress in the interior of the Australian plate, which is then released during earthquakes," Mr Glanville added.

Internationally, a large number of earthquakes was recorded during 2014, with 13 events of magnitude 7.0+ recorded around the Pacific Rim. This included an 8.2 magnitude event in Chile on 1 April 2014, which also generated a tsunami along the Chile coastline, causing the loss of 10 lives and destroying 588 houses in northern Chile.

Geoscience Australia monitors, analyses and reports on significant earthquakes to alert emergency managers, government and the public about earthquakes in Australia and overseas, so that the appropriate level of emergency response and assistance can be dispatched, and to inform the community of earthquakes in their local region. Geoscience Australia also operates the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre in collaboration with the Bureau of Meteorology.

Recording earthquake activity contributes to the sum of available data on earthquakes in Australia, and is useful in refining the Earthquake Hazard Map of Australia. This information informs improvement of the earthquake loading section of the Australian building code, which allows engineers to design structures to mitigate the effects of ground shaking and better protect communities.

You can help Geoscience Australia's earthquake research by reporting if you have felt an earthquake or know of an earthquake that recently occurred, even if you did not feel it yourself. More information can be found on our website at www.ga.gov.au/earthquakes or follow us on Twitter @EarthquakesGA.

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Video: A short animation showing the 636 earthquakes measured in 2014