Special Report Quakes: Making Headlines

By: Lacey Steele Email
By: Lacey Steele Email

With several major earthquakes making the headlines in 2010, some may be wondering if they're occuring more often than usual.

We found out what it could mean globally and here at home.

The quake in Haiti in January killed over 200,000 people.

We also caught headlines of the quake in Chile, another in Turkey, and one in China last month that killed thousands.

So the questions many are now asking include: Is this an unusual trend and should we worry?

"We don't make predictions of earthquakes in one area, but I will make a prediction, today there will be a 100-percent chance of an earthquake somewhere on the globe," said Dr. Michael May, a Geography and Geology Professor at Western Kentucky University. "Certainly."

According to May, seismic activity occurs every single day.

They just can't pinpoint where it will happen.

"We hear about them when they impact people's lives, and so the earthquake in Haiti was particularly devestating because it impacted so many people's lives," said Dr. Fred Siewers, a Geography and Geology Professor at WKU.

"The natural human response is wow I don't ever remember in the last five years or tens year, there being three major quakes like this," said May. "There must be something going on. It's not unusual. It just seems to be coincidental."

"There are not more earthquakes than usual," said Siewers. "It certainly seems that way because there have been some large earthquakes quite recently, some quite devestating as in the case of Haiti, but right now it seems to be kind of a normal year."

So if there aren't more, then what about that other headline claiming the earthquake in Chile shortened an earth day?

"It was so intense that it kind of jostled things about there in the southern part of the globe, but it was fairly insignificant as far as the day being shorter, like just a very small fraction of a second," said May.

What about South Central Kentucky?

Earthquakes have happened here for thousands of years along the New Madrid fault near the Mississippi River, and the Wabash Valley seismic zone in Illinois.

It was in the Wabash Valley that one hit two years ago and shook South Central Kentucky.

That quake was around a five on the Richter Scale.

"We felt that here," said Siewers. "It's the only earthquake I've ever felt in my life as a geologist, but it was a minor quake."

Professionals may say we cannot pinpoint where one will occur, which means instead of worrying, they say we should just be prepared and know the possibilities for damage should one hit in nearby faultline.

"We know the risk is higher for structural damage if you live near a river where sediment if really thick," said May. "If bedrock is near the surface, the risk is lower. Also there's a greater risk if you live really close to the epicenter."

May adds we live hundreds of miles away from possible epicenters in both the New Madrid and Wabash Valley seismic zones, but if major quakes hit in one of those areas, we could see substantial damage here at home.

For more information on activity in our area click here.

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