This powerful animation features every earthquake in the USGS/NEIC catalog for Alaska between 1918 and 2019, so in the last hundred years.
And with recent technology, we are able to record always more earthquakes… or is it just their number that is increasing?
The M7.1 earthquake that occurred under Anchorage, Alaska, on November 30, 2018, was the largest earthquake to impact the city in 54 years.
It was not, however, the largest recorded earthquake there.
That distinction goes to the March 28, 1964, M9.2 Great Alaskan Earthquake (also known as the Good Friday Earthquake) that struck the region as the largest earthquake ever recorded in North America, and the second-largest earthquake recorded anywhere.
It has in fact released more than 1000 times as much energy as the 2018 earthquake and generated a devastating tsunami.
Alaska Geological Setting
Alaska and its Aleutian Islands lie above a tectonic plate boundary called a “subduction zone” where the Pacific Plate grinds beneath the North American Plate.
This type of plate boundary can create volcanoes, such as those that make up the Aleutian Islands that stretch from Kamchatka, Russia to the Alaska Peninsula.
Subduction zones can also produce megathrust earthquakes with large vertical motions that cause devastating tsunamis.
Alaska and the Aleutian Islands have been the source of many such earthquakes and tsunamis in the more than 100 years of scientific measurement of these phenomena, and this animation shows all of the recorded seismic activity in this region from 100 years before the 2018 Anchorage earthquake up until the present day in the USGS/NEIC catalog for this region.
Some significant earthquakes shown in this animation include:
- April 1, 1946 – M8.6 – Unimak Island, Aluetian Is. (damaging/deadly tsunami)
- Aug 22, 1949 – M8.0 – Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Island), Canada (tsunami)
- Nov 4, 1952 – M9.0 – Kamchatka, Russia (damaging/deadly tsunami)
- Mar 3, 1957 – M8.6 – Andreanof Islands, Aleutian Islands (damaging tsunami)
- Jul 10, 1958 – M7.8 – Southeastern Alaska (Lituya Bay rockfall and megatsunami)
- Mar 28, 1964 – M9.2 – Prince William Sound (damaging/deadly tsunami)
- Feb 2, 1965 – M8.7 – Rat Islands, Aleutian Is. (damaging tsunami)
- Oct 28, 2012 – M7.8 – Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Island), Canada (tsunami)
- May 24, 2013 – M8.3 – Sea of Okhotsk (very deep: 598 km / 372 mi.)
- Jan 23, 2018 – M7.9 – southeast of Kodiak Island
- Nov 30, 2018 – M7.1 – Anchorage (significant damage, no deaths)
The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) and the U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center (NTWC) will issue tsunami alerts for any potentially tsunami-causing earthquake in the Alaska region here.
This video shows a comparison of the relative sizes of some historic earthquakes:
Here you can learn how subduction zones produce giant quakes and tsunamis:
Always be ready for the next earthquake. Hope you found this article interesting.