The Freakanomics blog reports that Foreign Policy magazine has responded to concerns that we are living in particularly harrowing times, experiencing more than our share of natural disasters. But FP reports that we are not. What we actually have is a heightened awareness that these events are occurring thanks to rapid and prolonged media coverage.
Based on U.S. Geological Survey records dating back to 1900, the Earth experiences 16 major earthquakes per year on average, where a major quake is one whose magnitude is 7.0 or more. There were only 6 major quakes in 1986 but 32 in 1943. And this year? 6 so far, so we might be headed for an above average year, but not an extreme year. However there is an increase in the loss of life from earthquakes (650,000 people last decade) due to the expansion of urban sites into fault zones. This is another factor which increases media coverage of these tragedies.