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A series of devastating earthquakes in the past several years has triggered widespread debates over whether the Earth has entered an unprecedented period of earthquake activity.
Is Mother Nature out of control? What is the current status of earthquake prediction? Statistically, how significant is the recent increase in activity? Stephen S. Gao, a geophysics professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology in the United States, is one of the scientists who argued that the Earth has been witnessing increased activity.
"It is clear that the Earth is significantly more active over the past 15 years than the 20 years before," he told Xinhua in a recent interview.
His calculation shows that the moment release per year between 1995 and 2010 is about four times as large as that between 1975 and 1994. Even when the 2004 Sumatra earthquake in Indonesia and its large aftershocks and this year's 8.8-magnitude earthquake in Chile are not counted, the moment release over the past 15 years is still twice as large as that of the previous two decades.
Gao believed that the increased activity could simply be natural fluctuations of the stress field in the Earth's lithosphere, or the outer solid part.