The last earthquake in the New England region (including Canada border) occurred Wednesday: Minor mag. 1.6 earthquake - 79 km west of Miramichi, Northumberland County, New Brunswick, Canada, on Wednesday, Aug 24, 2022 at 7:41 am (GMT -3)...
In Central Massachusetts, the most pronounced fault is the Clinton-Newbury fault, created 250 million to 450 million years ago. It runs 97 miles from Worcester to Newbury through Lake Quinsigamond and the Acre section of Clinton.
MARCH 2011__Mega earthquakes in Japan, Chile and even on the West Coast seem far away. Here in New England, we are more worried about snow falling on us than the earth moving beneath us, but is our sense of security misplaced?
The last truly big earthquake here was before the American Revolution. There is no guarantee it won’t happen again tomorrow.
“We’re overdue,” geologist Robert B. Coyle said to a group gathered recently at the Millers River Environmental Center.
During a discussion of the geology of northern Central Massachusetts, Mr. Coyle, founder of the Athol Bird and Nature Club, said it is not a matter of if, but when and how large an earthquake the region will experience.
What may surprise some people is that, although earthquakes are not as frequent as on the West Coast, they happen in New England regularly. On March 24, there was a 1.3 magnitude quake centered five miles from Moodus, Conn. On March 25, there was a 2.2 magnitude quake near Lincoln, Maine. Earlier in March, Contoocook, N.H., experienced a similar size quake. The last one in Massachusetts was a 1.7 magnitude quake along the New York border Oct. 22, but in 1994 in Hardwick, residents were jolted by a 3.5 magnitude quake felt all over Central Massachusetts.
Quakes happen, and have throughout history in Massachusetts and New England. Mr. Coyle said the most famous big one was a 6.0 magnitude quake off Cape Ann in 1755 that toppled chimneys and damaged homes in Boston. It came on the heels of several other quakes in that area in the 1700s. There has never been anything close to the 9.0 quake that devastated Japan in Massachusetts, but there has been some shaking, rattling and rolling over the years.
John E. Ebel, director of seismology at Boston University’s Weston Observatory in Weston, said the Cape Ann quake may not have been the strongest to hit the region since Europeans settled here. He said he believes one centered in Central New Hampshire in 1638 may have been magnitude 6.5. He said a quake in the St. Lawrence River area near Quebec City in 1663 may have been about magnitude 7.5.
“If you had that today, you could have had significant damage,” he said.
Mr. Coyle said the history of quakes in the region can be seen in its geology. On Route 2, about a mile west of Route 32 in Athol, a large fault is visible in ledges on both sides of the highway. The fault runs through uptown Athol, finding its way up Route 32 until it emerges in the spillway around the Tully Dam, where two distinct fractures can be seen in the rocks on the east side of the Route 32 bridge.
“There is also a large fault in New Salem,” Mr. Coyle said.
That fault can be found in the caves in the Bears Den* area.
“There are breaks in the rocks where you can go in and see how the rocks have moved over each other, both vertically and horizontally,” he said. “It’s a place not to be missed.”
There is another fault in Warwick that runs up into New Hampshire. In Central Massachusetts, the most pronounced fault is the Clinton-Newbury fault, created 250 million to 450 million years ago. It runs 97 miles from Worcester to Newbury through Lake Quinsigamond and the Acre section of Clinton. The faults are millions of years old, but there has been some low-level earthquake activity near the Clinton-Newbury fault, especially in the Newbury area in recent years. They are a goldmine of interesting rocks for geologists, but more than a little disconcerting to the casual viewer. Do the old faults point to some future disaster?
Earthquake hazard prediction is difficult, if not nearly impossible.
“No one can predict earthquakes anywhere on earth,” Mr. Ebel said.
What can be done is look at the extensive data collected by scientists, including those at the Weston Observatory, and try to make hazard predictions based on the history of earthquakes in the area. They are not as frequent as in California because pressure on the rocks is stronger out there than it is in New England.
Mr. Ebel said the possibility of an earthquake of magnitude 5 in New England averages about one in every 60 years. The last time such a strong earthquake hit was in December 1940 when the two quakes, both about 5.5 magnitude, were centered around Ossipee Lake in New Hampshire.
Based on that, it would make sense that the region is overdue by 10 years for a big hit, but Mr. Ebel cautions that the 60-year number is an estimate. As an example, he said an earthquake could occur, a second follow the next week, and then the third not for 99 years.
“The average would be every 50 years,” he said.
What can be predicted is there will be earthquakes. The rate of having small quakes in New England every few weeks has been steady over time. The numbers may go up and down, but people can expect the earth to keep moving under their feet
Those who believe they have felt an earthquake may report it by filling out a form at the U.S. Geological Survey at http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/dyfi/, by e-mailing the Weston Observatory at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell them precisely when they felt the earthquake and where they were at that time.
They may also call the observatory at (617) 552-8300. If there is damage, they should contact the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency at (508) 820-2000.
Bears Den, MA:
On its way to the Quabbin Reservoir, the Middle Branch of the Swift
River cascades into an intriguing woodland pool at the bottom of a
secluded gorge. In 1675, the great chief Metacomet, known to European
settlers as King Philip, met here with neighboring chieftains to plan
attacks on Hadley, Deerfield, and Northampton. A black bear shot on the
property gives the land/reservation its name.
18 Neilson Road
New Salem, MA 01355
From Rt. 2, Exit 16, follow Rt. 202 South. Shortly after Rt. 202 merges with Rt. 122 South, turn right onto Elm St. Turn left on Neilson Rd. Follow Neilson Road for 0.5 mi. to entrance and roadside parking on right.