Why doesn't Australia experience many earthquakes?

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paepin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Earthquakes primarily occur at tectonic plate boundaries as plates collide with one another. Australia is not situated on a tectonic plate boundary, so it is not a prime location for earthquake activity; however, Australia still regularly experiences earthquakes resulting from nearby boundary activity.

No portion of Earth's crust is completely free from earthquakes. For Australia, the primary driver of seismic activity is a result of compressive stress. Compressive stress results from the crushing forces of colliding plates, which extend far beyond the plate boundaries. In the case of Australia, the Indo-Australian plate is being pushed north to collide with the Eurasian, Philippine and Pacific plates, causing compressive stress to extend across the continent.

Although earthquakes occur less often in Australia than in other prime locations near plate boundaries, the Australian Government Geoscience division reports that the country experiences up to 80 earthquakes with a magnitude of 3.0+ per year (2016). Additionally, the popular science publication Australian Geographic explained that Australia experiences more earthquakes than its peers with similar locations relative to plate boundaries (2011). The attached image shows every detected earthquake up to 2011.

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