Have Major Earthquakes Happened In New England?

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — A major earthquake hit Southern California Friday night.

The magnitude 7.1 earthquake, close to Ridgecrest, Calif., shook many residents in the surrounding areas. According to the Associated Press, it was Southern California’s largest earthquake in nearly 20 years.

This came after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake on Thursday in roughly the same area.

WBZ NewsRadio’s Kevin Coleman spoke with Dr. Alan Kafka, a seismologist and director of the Weston Observatory at Boston College, about how he tracked the earthquake in Boston, and the history of earthquakes in New England.

“It takes seven minutes, the seismic waves to go from California to Boston. And so, I was reading all about it while I was waiting for the waves to come into Weston Observatory,” Kafka said.

Kafka said that earthquakes have also happened in New England.

“We sitting almost right dead in the middle of the North American plate,” Kafka said.

Typically, earthquakes occur at plate boundaries. California is between the Pacific and North American plates, according to Kafka.

“But earthquakes also occur in the middle of plates,” Kafka said. “It’s somewhat more mysterious as to why they occur in the middle of plates, but we have earthquakes around about magnitude 3 that are big enough to be felt in New England or surrounding Northeast U.S. about once every month or two.”

Historically, New England has seen larger earthquakes as well. According to Kafka, the largest earthquake near Boston was in 1755 off the coast of Cape Ann, and was “probably around a magnitude 6.”

“There will certainly be a significant earthquake in New England. If a magnitude 6 happened in the past, it can happen again,” Kafka said. “The earthquake process is too random, especially in the middle of a plate, to answer the question of when.”

Kafka said research aims to answer the question of whether an earthquake in New England could be bigger than the larger ones of the past.

“The largest earthquake that we know of that has occurred east of the Rockies, that has occurred in the center of the plate, is about the size of the earthquake that happened [Friday] night in California. Could an earthquake that big happen in New England? I would say that there’s no reason why not,” Kafka said.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Listen to the conversation between WBZ NewsRadio's Kevin Coleman (@KevinColemanWBZ) and seismologist Dr. Alan Kafka (@Weston_Quakes)

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