ArcGIS Online

Map in a minute: Map an earthquake using ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Living Atlas

I was sitting at the kitchen counter working on my laptop, tying up some loose ends after a busy work day. Then suddenly, bam! Then another, more forceful, BAM! All followed by a gentle rolling sensation. It was as if a large hand had slapped the side of the house and the solid ground it sits upon was now plate of jello.

I knew immediately it was an earthquake, a familiar feeling living in Southern California. I thought the temblor was close by, but where? What else could I learn about the earthquake and any impacts?


Make a quake map

ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World includes authoritative live feeds and other content that helps you learn more about earthquakes, faults, and what was experienced. Follow these steps to make your own earthquake map in a minute. The workflow is as follows:

Step 1 — Open Map Viewer, click Add, then Browse Living Atlas Layers.

Add from Living Atlas

Step 2 — Enter “earthquake” in search to locate the Recent Earthquakes layer. Click (+) to add it to the map.

Search for earthquake

Tip: To learn more about any layer, click the layer title to View item details.

View item details

From the Recent Earthquakes item details we learn that quakes are displayed by magnitude along with impact. Events are updated as frequently as every 5 minutes and are available up to 30 days, except for events of magnitude less than 3.0 (retained 3 days) and events of magnitude less than 4.5 (retained 7 days). Labeled quakes are those with a PAGER alert, a measure of the scope and impact of the event.

The current map shows the magnitude (pun intended) of seismic activity in Southern California.

Recent earthquakes
View larger image

Explore the map and click features to learn more. The Events by Magnitude pop-up displays the magnitude, depth, date, time, PAGER alert status, and includes a link to the USGS event details.

Pop-up information

The Shake Intensity pop-up displays the Mercalli Scale intensity and a description of what was felt and any expected damage.

Pop-up information


Apply filters to find the latest quakes

The Recent Earthquakes layer shows events over the last 30 days. The next steps will for only the most recent temblors.

Step 3 — Open the layer filter.

Layer filter

Step 4 — Create a filter expression.

Expressions use the general form of <Field_name> <Operator> <Value, Field or Unique>. Use the dropdown menus to create the desired filter, in this case the quakes that have occurred in the last hour.

Create filter expression

Other filters you can try are:

To sync the display of the layers, apply the same filter to both the Events by Magnitude and Shake Intensity layers. Note that some of the attributes will differ. Multiple filters and filter sets can be applied. For more information, see Apply filters.


Refine and finalize the map

World Topographic is the default basemap for our organization. This basemap seemed a little busy, competing with the Living Atlas Recent Earthquakes layer. A better map can be easily created with a few simple changes. See the before and after comparison below.

Earthquake map comparison
View larger image

Recent Earthquakes is a feature layer, letting you apply your own styling to highlight what you want. A different basemap can be chosen to complement and highlight the layer. You can add other layers, such as fault lines, to provide additional context. The basemap can be adjusted by changing layer transparency and adding additional layers.

To create the final map on the right, the following adjustments were made:

The steps for making these adjustments are detailed in Help and in other blog articles. See the More information links in the section below.


More information

For more information see:

This article was originally published on Feb 24, 2018, and has been updated.

About the author

Corporate tech evangelist and senior principal product manager at Esri, focusing on ways to broaden access to geographic information and helping users succeed with the ArcGIS online system. On a good day I'm making a map, on a great day I'm on one. Follow @bernszukalski or email


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