Upside Down Earthquakes

No, this isn’t news about some new geological process. It’s about a way of visualizing earthquakes in three dimensions (actually four dimensions) using KML with Google Earth. Duncan Agnew of the University of California in San Diego has taken earthquake seismographic data and processed it in a unique way. He shows both the magnitude and location of each quake using the size of icons (as we’ve seen in the USGS real-time earthquakes network link). But, he also places the location of earthquakes depth by showing the depth as an altitude (hence, the “upside” down part). The result is a view of the location of the quakes visualized in space upside down as they would be viewed underground (if inverted). The file Duncan forwarded to me includes major earthquakes since the year 1900. Since the data is also time stamped, so you have to use the time slider to see it properly. Load the file here . IMPORTANT: You need to separate the time slider by grabbing the left handle and separating it from the right handle so you are showing a range of data (as shown in the screenshot). Then you can grab the right handle to adjust for the range of years you want to view.

Earthquakes in four dimensions in Google Earth

Duncan describes the visualization in more detail on this web page. He also produced to some software to help make the visualizations which he is sharing here. Great work Duncan!

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was released. He worked in 3D graphics for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank left in 2009 to circumnavigate the earth by sailboat as part of the Tahina Expedition.


  1. Very interesting tool for quake science.
    Thanks for sharing this.

Leave a Reply