Where in Spain is the greatest risk of earthquakes?

by Lorraine Williamson
earthquakes a possibility in Spain - La Palma eruption screen grab of footage on Twitter with source unknown

After 21,000 earthquakes in a week and finally a volcanic eruption on the Canary Island of La Palma, the question arises which other areas in Spain are the most earthquake-prone. Experts at IGN answer this. 

On Sunday afternoon, the Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted, resulting in the evacuation of 10,000 residents. The National Institute of Geography (IGN) considers La Palma to be one of the most seismically active areas of Spain, or the most earthquake-prone. 

Many will wonder about this; are there other areas in Spain that are more sensitive to seismic vibrations? The National Institute of Geography has classified Spain into four categories based on how likely an area is to experience seismicity; small, medium, large, very large. This map of Spain can be seen in the Spanish-language article of 20minutos.es. 

Canary Islands with very high risk of earthquakes 

Itahiza Domínguez, a seismologist at IGN, says initially, all the Canary Islands are volcanic in nature. However, not all of the volcanoes on the islands are active. Tenerife and El Hierro have the greatest chance of an earthquake, followed by the northern part of Lanzarote. 

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Other places in Spain with a very high risk of earthquakes 

The eastern part of Málaga and the western part of Granada are also among the places in Spain with a very high risk of seismic activity. Another major risk factor, according to the IGN, is the rupture in the Alborán Sea that triggered a series of earthquakes in late 2020 and early 2021. This rupture could cause tsunamis that threaten Spain’s southern coastline. The risk of earthquakes is also considered very high in eastern Murcia and western Alicante. 

High-risk areas for earthquakes in Spain 

The areas in Spain with a high probability of seismic activity are almost the entire province of Huelva and the southern provinces from Málaga to Alicante. The Pyrenees have always been one of the riskiest places in Spain in terms of earthquakes. The Iberian Peninsula ‘collides’ with France, as it were, creating the mountain range. These types of collisions can cause earthquakes, although it is not a very active area, according to the IGN. 

Which areas in Spain qualify as medium risk 

Areas in Spain with an average earthquake risk are Lugo and Ourense, southern Badajoz, Córdoba, Cádiz, Jaén, Albacete and Valencia. Also, the strip from the east of the Basque Country, Navarra, the north of Huesca and Lleida towards the south of Girona, and the entire provinces of Barcelona and Tarragona belong to this category. The risk is also considered average in the Balearic Islands and the other Canary Islands. 

In all other provinces in Spain, there is a low risk of earthquakes. 

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