Seismicity in Germany in global context

global damage earthquakes

In a global context, the seismicity of Germany is very low, whereas it can be described as moderate on a European scale. The 10 most deadly historical earthquakes in the world are listed in Table 1. This list was revised to avoid overestimated or fake entries due to exaggerated descriptions in the historical records.
The Shaanxi earthquake in 1556 is noteworthy as it was the most destructive earthquake in the history of humanity. For this event, an exact list was made of all the retrieved bodies. Apart from the Kanto earthquake (Japan) in 1923, all earthquakes in Table 1 occurred in the Mediterranean-Trans-Asian earthquake belt. The only European earthquake in the list is the Messina earthquake in 1908. More information about this earthquake is given in a later paragraph. 

Table 1. Most destructive known earthquakes in the history.
1556, Jan. 23ChinaShaanxi830,000
retrieved bodies
~ 8
1976, July 27ChinaTangshan255,000 official
655,000 estimated
2004, Dec. 26IndonesiaNE Sumatra Coast283.0009.0-9.3
1139, Sept. 30AzerbaiyanGanzak230.0007.7
1303, Sept. 17ChinaShaanxi200.000 
1920, Dec. 22ChinaNingxia200.0007.8
856, Dec. 22IranQumis/Danghan200.000 
1923, Sept. 1JapanKanto143.0008.3
1138, Oct. 15SyriaAzrab/Aleppo130.000 
1908, Dec. 28ItalyMessina86.0007.5

Comparing the contributions of various types of natural disasters in the 20th century to the in total 4.06 million natural disaster related casualties (Figure 1), earthquakes are on the top with 51%, followed by floods (ca. 30%) and storms (ca. 17%). Volcanic eruptions and landslides have only negligibly small contributions to the total number of casualties. 

In a global context, the seismicity of Europe can be categorized as moderate. Most of the earthquakes in the world are concentrated along the plate boundaries surrounding the Pacific Ocean. In the European region, most of the earthquakes are related to the plate boundary between the African and the European plates (Figure 2). The seismicity of the Mediterranean region and the adjacent northern parts of Europe is closely related to the geological structures in the region. The most intensive seismicity is found in Greece, in the southern parts of the Balkan region and in western Turkey, followed by Italy and the western parts of the Balkan.

Abbildung 2. Seismizität des Mittelmeerraumes und nördlich an­gren­zenden Teilen Europas; Daten nach Grünthal und Wahlström (2003, ergänzt).

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