Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Virginia Earthquake Not A Fluke In The Seismically Active Southeast

Date:
December 12, 2003
Source:
Virginia Tech
Summary:
At 3:59 p.m. on Dec. 9, central Virginia experienced an earthquake that registered at 4.5 on the Richter scale. This moderate earthquake was the strongest seismic event to shake the area in 30 years, said Martin Chapman, director of the Virginia Tech Seismological Observatory.

Blacksburg, Va. -- At 3:59 p.m. on Dec. 9, central Virginia experienced an earthquake that registered at 4.5 on the Richter scale. This moderate earthquake was the strongest seismic event to shake the area in 30 years, said Martin Chapman, director of the Virginia Tech Seismological Observatory.

"The event occurred in an area where we would expect earthquakes--in the central Virginia seismic zone," Chapman noted. The U.S. Geological Survey reports that the epicenter of the earthquake was about 30 miles southwest of Richmond at a depth of 3 miles. Details about the event are posted on the observatory website at http://www.geol.vt.edu/outreach/vtso.

Although little or no structural damage occurred during the event, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that the trembles were felt in parts of North Carolina and Maryland.

Virginia and other southeastern states are vulnerable to earthquakes, even though the seismic history and nature of the region is different from that of the West Coast.

In 1897, an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 6.0 rocked Virginia Tech in the southwestern area of the state, Chapman said. The shock was centered in neighboring Giles County and was felt from Pennsylvania to Georgia. And although we tend to think of Alaska and California as the typical sites of seismic activity in the United States, eastern Tennessee is one of the most active areas in the nation in terms of the number of earthquakes recorded.

The most damaging seismic event in the U.S. prior to the 1906 earthquake and fire that destroyed San Francisco occurred in coastal South Carolina in 1886, Chapman said. The "Charleston earthquake," which caused structural damage as far away as Richmond and Atlanta, reached an estimated magnitude of 7.3 on the Richter scale -- essentially the same magnitude as the shock that killed more than 17,000 people in northwestern Turkey in August 1999.

In addition to the severity of those two earthquakes, another ominous similarity exists. "In terms of seismic vulnerability, many buildings in the southeastern U.S. today are similar to those in Turkey," said James Martin, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech who visited Turkey to study the effects of that earthquake. "In neither place is there adequate structural protection of buildings. If another 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit Charleston today, the city would suffer much the same damage as cities in Turkey."

Despite the Southeast's potential for major earthquakes in the future, few engineering studies or emergency response plans have been devised in our region, Martin noted. That's why he and Chapman founded the Earthquake Engineering Center for the Southeastern United States (http://ecsus.ce.vt.edu/Main1.htm) in 2000.

"Recent seismological studies suggest that the southern Appalachian highlands have the potential for even larger earthquakes than have occurred in the past," Martin said. "But now those events would take place in much more highly populated areas. Felt earthquakes don't occur as often in the Southeast as in California, because the tectonic strain rates are different. Our region tends to experience large earthquakes isolated by long periods of quiet."

"However," Martin warned, "we are under a significant threat of large, damaging earthquakes."

There's another difference between California and the Southeast as seismic zones. "The earth's crust is stronger here," Chapman explained. "So shock waves moving from the epicenter of an earthquake don't lose as much energy as during quakes in California. When a magnitude 7.0 earthquake occurs in the Southeast, the waves affect a larger area and can cause more damage at a greater distance than when a similar shock hits California."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Virginia Tech. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Virginia Tech. "Virginia Earthquake Not A Fluke In The Seismically Active Southeast." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 December 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/12/031212080152.htm>.
Virginia Tech. (2003, December 12). Virginia Earthquake Not A Fluke In The Seismically Active Southeast. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/12/031212080152.htm
Virginia Tech. "Virginia Earthquake Not A Fluke In The Seismically Active Southeast." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/12/031212080152.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

AP (July 30, 2014) Every summer, tourists make the pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island, Va. to see wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel. But, it's the rockets sending to supplies to the International Space Station that are making this a year-round destination. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Newsy (July 29, 2014) A report from the White House warns not curbing greenhouse gas emissions could cost the U.S. billions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Climate Change Could Cost Billions According To White House

Climate Change Could Cost Billions According To White House

Newsy (July 29, 2014) A report from the White House warns not curbing greenhouse gas emissions could cost the U.S. billions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins