Chart: Number of Earthquakes Recorded by the National Center for Earthquakes (1995-2021)
The National Center for Earthquakes (NCE) recorded 422 earthquakes in 2020, the last year for which full data is available. This represents a 25-percent increase compared with the previous year, which witnessed 338 earthquakes. Data for 2021, which only goes until the end of March, shows that 87 earthquakes occurred during the first trimester of that year.
The NCE, a state institution affiliated with the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, is responsible for conducting research in seismic studies and monitoring seismic activities across Syria.
It is worth noting that the NCE’s methodology for recording seismic activity includes earthquakes that occurred outside of Syria but are still detected by its sensors. However, it is unclear whether the magnitude recorded by the centre represents the tremors felt in Syria or at the epicentre.
Of the 7,206 earthquakes recorded between 1995 and 2021, around 3,500 of them happened outside of the Syrian territory, mostly along the Turkish and Iraqi borders.
For the purpose of this chart, the earthquakes that are taken into account are all located within a ‘geographical box’ surrounding Syria located between:
- 38°N; 35°E to the Northwest;
- 38° W; 43°E to the Northeast;
- 32.15°N; 43°E to the Southeast;
- 32.15°N; 35°E to the Southwest.
Since recordings by the NCE began in 1995, Syria has witnessed 7,206 seismic events with a magnitude equal to or superior to 1.5 on the Richter scale, which measures the strength of earthquakes on a scale of one (weakest) to nine (strongest).
Prior to the earthquake on February 06, which had a magnitude of 7.8, the strongest earthquake recorded by the NCE occurred in 1996 with a magnitude of 5.6. Since then, only six other seismic events felt in Syria had a magnitude superior to 5.0.
Earthquakes with a strength ranging from 5.0 to 5.9 are considered moderate and potentially harmful to poorly constructed infrastructure, but generally do not result in any human losses. These earthquakes are fairly common in areas of high seismic activity.
Between 1995 and 2021, Syria felt some 135 earthquakes with magnitudes ranging from 4.9 to 4.0; 1,181 from 3.9 to 3.0; 5,622 from 2.9 to 2.0; and 262 from 1.9 to 1.5.
Interestingly, the data shows a significant surge in seismic activity after 2009. While the NCE did not provide any reason for the increase, an explanation may include a combination of technological improvement and the deployment of additional sensors leading to an increase in the detection of earthquakes.
Besides, data also suggests that the NCE implemented a new methodology taking into account smaller seismic events. Between 2009 and 2021 the NCE reported two times more earthquakes with a magnitude of 3.0+ compared with 1995-2008 (899 against 423), the centre reported nearly ten times more earthquakes with a strength of 2.9 or less compared with the same period (5,257 against 627).
To these factors can also be added to a real increase in seismic activity and some of the conflict-related explosions that sensors may have detected to be earthquakes.
Table: Number of Earthquakes Recorded by the National Center for Earthquakes (1995-2021)
|Year||Number of Earthquakes|
*Data as of March 31, 2021.
Source: National Center for Earthquakes