x
Breaking News
More () »

No, a grid pattern of earthquakes on La Palma is not evidence the quakes are man-made or artificial

After the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre posted a map of earthquake activity on La Palma, conspiracies spread about the source of the quakes.
Credit: Screenshot

The Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago located off the coast of northwestern Africa, erupted on Sept. 19. 

The eruption has caused earthquakes across the island, including one that measured higher than a magnitude 5. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) says large regional earthquakes are normal before or after volcanic activity.

The European-Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC) regularly maps seismic activity worldwide. On the EMSC map of La Palma, the earthquakes triggered by Cumbre Viejo’s eruption appear in a grid pattern, which has sparked conspiracy theories online that they are in a uniform grid because the earthquakes are man-made or artificial.

An article claiming the grid system is “evidence” that volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are an “artificial attack” was posted to the Hal Turner Radio Show website and was shared hundreds of times across social networks. Turner is a political commentator who regularly shares conspiracy theories.

A video posted to Bitchute about Hal Turner’s article was viewed more than 163,000 times. Bitchute is a video-sharing alternative to YouTube. 

Credit: Screenshot/Hal Turner Radio Show

THE QUESTION

Is the grid pattern seen in the EMSC map of earthquakes evidence the earthquakes are artificial or man-made?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, the grid pattern seen on the EMSC map of earthquakes is not evidence the earthquakes are artificial or man-made.  

Different agencies that track seismic activity across the globe use different methods of plotting latitude and longitude points. The EMSC maps longitude and latitude rounded to the second digit after the decimal point (e.g. 28.56°N / 17.82°W), which makes the activity appear more like a grid, versus a scatter plot.

Other versions of the same area look different because those agencies use different methods to plot locations on a latitude and longitude map. 

WHAT WE FOUND

On the morning of Nov. 3, a magnitude 5.1 event was the strongest tremor recorded since the volcano began erupting in September. 

Credit: Screenshot/EMSC
This screenshot from the EMSC website was captured on Nov. 3 and shows the grid pattern of the earthquakes on La Palma.

When the earthquakes are mapped on the EMSC website, the seismic activity across the island appears to be in a grid pattern, while other websites, like Spanish government agency Instituto Geográfico Nacional (IGN), do not show the same pattern.

Credit: Screenshot/IGN
This visualization from the IGN shows the earthquake activity on La Palma.

VolcanoDiscovery, which provides a global database of volcanoes, addressed this specific conspiracy and said without a doubt, these earthquakes are “NOT artificial.” 

The latitude and longitude values plotted on the EMSC map are rounded to the second digit after the decimal point (e.g. 28.56°N / 17.82°W), while the IGN plots their coordinates using four digits after the decimal (e.g. 28.5594°N / 17.8292°W), the article from VolcanoDiscovery said. 

In a tweet from the EMSC, the organization said two digits are “generally enough” when providing data at a global scale.

According to a blog post from theoretical physicist Matt Strassler, who writes about science and is listed as a visiting scholar at Harvard University’s Center for the Fundamental Laws of Nature, agrees it’s all about how each agency plots the coordinates.

“We’re looking at a plot of rounded-off locations. I agree that’s not nearly as exciting; but as any scientist with some experience will tell you, boring explanations are usually true and conspiracies, especially wild ones, are usually not,” Strassler wrote. 

More from VERIFY: No, the volcano on La Palma in the Canary Islands will not cause a ‘mega tsunami’ as conspiracy theorists suggest

The VERIFY team works to separate fact from fiction so that you can understand what is true and false. Please consider subscribing to our daily newsletter, text alerts and our YouTube channel. You can also follow us on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. Learn More »

Follow Us

Want something VERIFIED?

Text: 202-410-8808