Temporal clustering of the larger earthquakes (foreshock-mainshock-aftershock) followed by relative quiescence (stress shadow) are characteristic of seismic cycles along plate boundaries. A global seismic-moment release history, based on a little more than 100 years of instrumental earthquake data in an extended version of the catalog of Pacheco and Sykes (1992), illustrates similar behavior for Earth as a whole. Although the largest earthquakes have occurred in the circum-Pacific region, an analysis of moment release in the hemisphere antipodal to the Pacific plate shows a very similar pattern. Monte Carlo simulations confirm that the global temporal clustering of great shallow earthquakes during 1952–1964 at M ≥ 9.0 is highly significant (4% random probability) as is the clustering of the events of M ≥ 8.6 (0.2% random probability) during 1950–1965. We have extended the Pacheco and Sykes (1992) catalog from 1989 through 2001 using Harvard moment centroid data. Immediately after the 1950–1965 cluster, significant quiescence at and above M 8.4 begins and continues until 2001 (0.5% random probability). In alternative catalogs derived by correcting for possible random errors in magnitude estimates in the extended Pacheco–Sykes catalog, the clustering of M ≥ 9 persists at a significant level. These observations indicate that, for great earthquakes, Earth behaves as a coherent seismotectonic system. A very-large-scale mechanism for global earthquake triggering and/or stress transfer is implied. There are several candidates, but so far only viscoelastic relaxation has been modeled on a global scale.

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