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Small Earthquakes Common In Eastern US

Red circles show earthquake epicenters in the eastern United States from 1972-2012
Courtesy of Scott Marshall
Appalachian State University

There was a 2.2 magnitude earthquake west of Asheville earlier this week.According to the U.S. Geological Survey, it's the fourth small quake felt in the area in the past month. But Appalachian State University Geophysicist Scott Marshall says that's not really surprising.

“Damaging earthquakes in the eastern U.S. are rare,” Marshall said. “Small earthquakes in the eastern U.S. are pretty common. Several hundred per year.”

Damaging earthquakes in the eastern U.S. are rare. Small earthquakes in the eastern U.S. are pretty common. Several hundred per year. -Scott Marshall

They're far less common than the many thousands rocking Southern California each year. But Marshall says, when large quakes happen on the East Coast, the cold, contiguous rock below the surface carries vibrations further.

“Eastern United States earthquakes are rare, but they do happen,” he said. “And when a damaging event happens, like the Mineral, Virginia, earthquake, they are felt over much larger regions than a location like California.”

The magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Virginia in 2011 caused buildings in Boston to sway.

Asheville is across the border from the active Eastern Tennessee Seismic Zone.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that a 2011 earthquake in the American South rung church bells in Boston. That impact came from a larger Southern quake in 1811.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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