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Since 1900, earthquakes in the United States have resulted in over 1300 deaths and direct damages totaling more than $51 billion. While the West Coast and Alaska have the highest risk, history shows that major earthquakes can also affect the Central and Eastern United States.


The Peru earthquake of May 31, 1970 caused slumping and cracking of this paved road. Image Credit: U.S. Geological Survey

Most earthquakes are caused by the sudden release of built-up stress along faults, fractures in the Earth’s crust where large blocks of crustal rock move against one another. An earthquake’s size can be measured by the amount of energy released by that movement. While scientists can't predict earthquakes, they are developing earthquake early warning systems that can provide seconds to minutes of warning when an earthquake occurs.  Scientists can also estimate the likelihood of future quakes and use that information to design safer buildings and roads.   Read more

Frequently Asked Questions

Latest News

Cracked road from earthquake
December 11, 2018 On December 11, President Donald Trump signed a bill to reauthorize the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) through fiscal year 2023. NEHRP was created to facilitate research, planning, decision-making, and mitigation efforts related to seismic activity between...
Cracked road from earthquake
November 27, 2018 A bill to reauthorize the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) through fiscal year 2023 passed the House on November 27 and now awaits final approval by the President. The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act of 2018 (S. 1768) serves...
Cracked road from earthquake
October 10, 2018 The United States Geological Survey (USGS) held a briefing on October 2 to discuss the ongoing rollout of the ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System. The briefing was held in conjunction with the release of a new USGS report titled, “Revised technical implementation plan for...
Cracked road from earthquake
August 3, 2018 On August 3, Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA-48) introduced the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 6650). First established by Congress in 1977, NEHRP is a program that provides coordination and leadership in monitoring...
Cracked road from earthquake
January 30, 2018 On January 30, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a full committee hearing to address the role of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in preparing for and responding to...
IES Soils Glyph
December 13, 2017 At an executive session on December 13, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) Reauthorization Act of 2018 (S.2200) and the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP)...
Cracked road from earthquake
September 6, 2017 On September 6, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a bill (S.1768) to permanently reauthorize the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP). First authorized in 1977, NEHRP has led to significant improvements in earthquake research and infrastructure...
Cracked road from earthquake
September 6, 2017 On September 6, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a bill (S.1768) to permanently reauthorize the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP). First authorized in 1977, NEHRP has led to significant improvements in earthquake research and infrastructure...
April 6, 2017 The Hazards Caucus Alliance, a network that supports the Congressional Hazards Caucus, hosted a briefing on April 6 about how geologic and hazards mapping and monitoring are used to prepare and protect communities from natural hazards. The Hazards Caucus provides congressional staff...
Cracked road from earthquake
March 27, 2017 The Pacific Northwest Earthquake Preparedness Act (H.R.654) moved a step closer to becoming law when the bill passed the House on March 27. Representative Pete DeFazio (D-OR-4) introduced H.R.654 on January 24. The bill would establish an earthquake and tsunami inter-agency task...

Case Studies & Factsheets

Fig. 1. Densely built urban areas on soft soils are prone to earthquake damage. Geologic maps provide vital information on the extent of these soils. Credit: N.J. Department of Environmental Protection
Geologic mapping provides the data foundation that makes soil mapping and earthquake simulations possible. This approach also can be used to predict damage in areas where the historical record indicates a risk of potential earthquakes. Defining the Problem The density and value of its buildings...
Cover of Geoscientists in Petroleum and the Environment
Introduction Geoscience – the study of the Earth – underpins our understanding of the many intersections between petroleum and the environment, from the search for resources to the study of air pollutants. Without the work of geoscientists, we would have neither the energy system nor the...
Cover of Induced Seismicity from Oil and Gas Operations
Manmade Earthquakes Any activity that significantly changes the pressure on or fluid content of rocks has the potential to trigger earthquakes. This includes geothermal energy production, water storage in large reservoirs, groundwater extraction, underground injection of water for enhanced oil...
Fig. 3. View of part of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline at the Denali Fault showing major design features. Fault movement and intense ground shaking were accommodated by zigzagging the pipeline and leaving it free to slide. Credit: M. Metz, Anchorage
On November 3, 2002, the 800-mile long Trans-Alaska Pipeline pipeline was able to withstand the largest recorded earthquake for the Denali fault without spilling a drop of oil and with only 3 days shutdown time for inspections. The survival of the pipeline demonstrates the value of combining...
Earthquakes in the New Madrid Fault Zone The New Madrid fault zone (NMFZ) is a long-established weakness in the Earth’s crust in the central and eastern US where earthquakes have occurred for hundreds of millions of years. In 1811-1812, three large earthquakes (up to magnitude 7.5) caused severe...
Cover of Subsurface Data in the Oil and Gas Industry
Introduction Drilling for oil and gas is expensive. A single well generally costs $5-8 million onshore and $100-200 million or more in deep water.1 To maximize the chances of drilling a productive well, oil and gas companies collect and study large amounts of information about the Earth’s...
Cover of AGI Case Study 2018-001-Geologic Mapping and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline
Overview The 800-mile-long Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which starts at Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s North Slope, can carry 2 million barrels of oil per day south to the port of Valdez for export, equal to roughly 10% of the daily consumption in the United States in 20171. The pipeline crosses the Denali...

GOLI Online Courses

GOLI Course: State Responses to Induced Earthquakes. Image courtesy of Jerry Boak.
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

The surge in recent years of earthquake activity associated with some oil and gas operations, most notably in Oklahoma, has spurred a range of actions and responses from state geoscientists and regulators. States have taken measures to monitor these earthquakes and moderate the activities that...

GOLI Course: Induced Seismicity in the Mid-Continent; Image credit: USGS
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

This course provides information about induced seismic activity in the United States, specifically in the mid-continent. It includes information on mitigation planning, the state of seismic monitoring at the state level, and the challenges in communicating the science of the issue to the public...

GOLI Course: Communicating Cascadia's Earthquake Risk. Image Credit: FEMA / Photo by Mustafa Lazkani
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

Geoscience research is at the forefront of characterizing the earthquake risks associated with the Cascadia subduction zone in the Pacific Northwest. This course covers the science and its implications for policy decisions and resiliency efforts.

Geological Surveys Database Publications

1979, Arkansas Gelogical Survey
This report discusses basic earthquake information, including describing what an earthquake is, how earthquake damage is evaluated, earthquake prediction, how earthquakes are recorded, the travel path of body waves through the earth, zonation within the earth, and solving earthquake source...
1997, Utah Geological Survey

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2001, Louisiana Geological Survey

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2000, Delaware Geological Survey
This report provides a brief overview of the causes of earthquakes, how earthquakes are measured, and a glossary of earthquake terminology.
2000, Wyoming State Geological Survey

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1988, Delaware Geological Survey
Delaware is not in a seismically active region but, even here, earthquakes occur because of sudden adjustments in the earth's crust. Even though such movements can be startling they yield important information about the behavior of the earth and the potential for future events. The Delaware...
1993, Pennsylvania Geological Survey

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2012, Ohio Geological Survey

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2003, United States Geological Survey

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1996, United States Geological Survey

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