Rare 4.8 Magnitude Earthquake Rattles New Jersey: Experts Offer Reassurance on Future Risks

Featured & Cover Rare 4 8 Magnitude Earthquake Rattles New Jersey Experts Offer Reassurance on Future Risks

A 4.8 magnitude earthquake struck New Jersey on Friday morning, causing ripples of concern from Baltimore to New York City. This seismic event, rare for the area, left residents shaken but also prompted experts to reassure the public about the likelihood of future earthquakes in the eastern U.S.

Angie Lux, a seismologist at the University of California Berkeley Seismology Lab, stated to TIME, “There’s no clear trend that there are more earthquakes happening.” Data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reveals that since 1950, roughly 40 earthquakes with magnitudes of 3 or higher have occurred within 500 km of Friday’s earthquake epicenter near Whitehouse Station, N.J. The last earthquake of comparable magnitude in the region struck in 2011, causing widespread tremors across the East Coast.

Lingsen Meng, an associate professor of geophysics at the University of California Los Angeles, emphasized that earthquakes are infrequent along the East Coast and advised people to remain calm. He noted, “Small earthquakes occur much more often than big ones.” The most significant earthquakes historically recorded on the East Coast were the 1755 Cape Ann earthquake in Boston and a 7.2 quake in Charleston, S.C. in 1886, which Meng described as “much bigger than the ones we have today.”

Sarah McBride, a research social scientist at USGS, mentioned in a press briefing that at least two aftershocks related to Friday’s earthquake had been recorded. However, she added that the likelihood of an aftershock with a magnitude of five or greater in the coming weeks was only 3%.

Regarding the cause of the earthquake, USGS clarified that it did not occur at an active fault. A spokesperson explained, “There are dozens of older inactive faults that formed millions of years ago. And under the current stresses from tectonic plates moving, those faults can be intermittently reactivated.” Further research is required to fully understand the event’s origin.

Meng reassured the public about potential infrastructure damage, stating, “Building damage usually doesn’t happen until [magnitude] six or seven. So [today’s earthquake] is not going to cause any significant damage unless the building is really inadequate.” He did, however, acknowledge a potential concern regarding seismic waves traveling across the East Coast, which can be felt more widely due to differences in the Earth’s crust. Meng explained, “East Coast seismic waves tend to travel much longer distances. They don’t attenuate or decay as fast.” Nonetheless, he emphasized that significant earthquakes are rare in the East Coast, thus the likelihood of severe damage or building collapse remains low.

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