IRIS Seismic Map: Earthquakes Like You've Never Seen Them, and You Can Even Listen to the Rumble!

Screen capture. IRIS

IRIS, the Incorporated Research Institute for Seismology, doesn't just have a cool acronym. The non-profit consortium of over 100 U.S. universities also has very cool interactive seismic tools that allow you to see for yourself just how dynamic our planet's crust is.

You can play with the IRIS Earthquake Browser and see for yourself how many earthquakes (hopefully small ones) are happening in your area, or explore the rest of the planet to find hotspots (the Pacific ring of fire is particularly obvious in the map below:

IRIS seismic map

IRIS/Screen capture

Here's the whole ring of fire, a 40,000 km (25,000 mi) horseshoe shape zone of high volcanic and seismic activity:

Pacific ring of fire

Public domain/Public Domain

If you click on an individual earthquake while on the seismic map, it leads you to a page that gives you more details about that particular event (time, exact location, depth, magnitude), including an audio recording of the earthquake's soundwave! It's really cool, and some of these earthquakes sound like movie sound effect. This one sounds pretty cool, for example.

Earthquake information page with audio recording

IRIS/Screen capture

When people tell you that Japan is in a seismically active region, here's what this means (an image is worth a thousand words!):

Japan seismic map

IRIS/Screen capture

Below you can see the San Andrea fault line (in pale blue on the map) that sits below California, helping make the state particularly active from a seismic point of view:

California San Andrea fault line map

IRIS/Screen capture

You can even view earthquakes in 3D with the IRIS 3D viewer. The best way to use it is from the Earthquake Browser; either highlight an area with your mouse or pick an event and click on 3D Browser in the interface on the right.

IRIS 3D viewer

IRIS 3D viewer/Screen capture