Earthquakes in Alaska: Fairbanks holds potential for large magnitude quakes

Published: Nov. 30, 2020 at 4:16 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - On November 30th, 2018 Anchorage was struck with a 7.1 magnitude earthquake that caused millions of dollars in damages.

While Fairbanks is no stranger to earthquakes, the causes in Fairbanks are different than in Anchorage.

“Anchorage is located closer to subduction zones so they have shallow earthquakes and deeper earthquakes. Fairbanks is farther away from subduction zones. In Fairbanks we only have shallow grade seismicity, so exactly the same type of earthquake that was the 7.1 in Anchorage in 2018 would not be possible in Fairbanks. But a different type of magnitude seven earthquake is definitely a possibility in Fairbanks,” said Natalia Ruppert, a Seismologist with UAF Alaska Earthquake Center

Fairbanks is surrounded by two major faults capable of high magnitude earthquakes. The most recent large quake to hit the Interior was the 2002 Denali earthquake which had a magnitude of 7.9, and was the largest reported in the United States in 37 years.

But Ruppert explained that there had been large earthquakes before that. “They are more widely distributed across the region, but we’ve had many examples in the past of magnitude 7.2, 7.3 earthquakes in the 1930′s and 1940′s. There are still folks in Fairbanks and in small villages around Fairbanks who remember those earthquakes that produced very strong shaking in Interior Alaska.”

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