New Study Reveals Central and Eastern United States Still Experiencing Aftershocks from Historical Earthquakes
A recent study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth has found that the central and eastern United States may still be experiencing aftershocks from earthquakes that occurred in the 1800s. Aftershocks are smaller quakes that can continue to shake an area for days to years after the original earthquake, and identifying the cause of modern earthquakes is crucial for understanding future disaster risk.
The study focused on three historic earthquake events: an earthquake near southeastern Quebec in 1663, a trio of quakes near the Missouri-Kentucky border from 1811 to 1812, and an earthquake in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1886. Researchers utilized a statistical approach called the nearest neighbor method to determine if recent earthquakes were likely aftershocks or unrelated seismic activity.
The findings revealed that approximately 30% of earthquakes in the Missouri-Kentucky border area from 1980 to 2016 were likely aftershocks, indicating that the region is still experiencing the effects of historical seismic activity. Similarly, it was determined that around 16% of earthquakes in Charleston, South Carolina, were likely aftershocks.
However, the study also highlighted that modern seismicity in these regions is a mix of aftershocks and background seismicity. Background seismicity refers to earthquakes that occur without any direct relation to previous events. The research indicated that background seismicity was the dominant cause of earthquakes in all three study regions, which could be a sign of continued strain accrual.
Understanding the historical earthquakes is crucial for assessing future seismic risk and developing effective disaster response strategies. By identifying the likelihood of aftershocks and distinguishing them from background seismicity, researchers can gain important insights into the risk factors associated with these regions.
This study serves as a reminder that the United States remains vulnerable to earthquakes, even those that occurred centuries ago. It underscores the need for ongoing research and monitoring to better understand the complexities of seismic activity in order to protect and prepare communities for potential future disasters.
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