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Since 1900, earthquakes in the United States have resulted in over 1100 deaths and direct damages totaling more than $50 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
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...
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...
An earthquake-resistant pipeline crossing the San Andreas Fault at Cholame, California. Image Copyright © Michael Collier
On Thursday and Friday, December 1-2, the National Academies' Roundtable on Unconventional Hydrocarbons held a workshop on Unconventional Hydrocarbon Development: Legacy Issues, Induced Seismicity, and Innovations in Managing Risk. The meeting brought together experts from industry, academia, state...
Cracked road from earthquake
November 10, 2016 On November 10, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) hosted a panel discussion on the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) and its potential for large scale fault rupture. Research from a number of academic institutions has suggested that such a rupture is capable of producing a...
Screenshot of video update on seismic activity in Kansas.
We have a brand new update on last year's webinar, Induced Seismicity in the Midcontinent. One of our speakers, Rex Buchanan, former State Geologist of Kansas, has returned to provide us with an update on seismic activity in Kansas. You can watch the short video on YouTube here:
Screenshot of a graphic showing the Cascadia Subduction Zone
On Thursday November 10, The National Academies' Board on Earth Science and Resources and the Committee on Seismology and Geodynamics held a joint meeting on The Cascadia Subduction Zone: Science, Impacts, and Response. The meeting provided a forum for the discussion of progress and future...
Map of earthquake probabilities across the U.S. Image Credit: U.S. Geological Survey
#MapOfTheDay! Today the Critical Issues Program (@AGI_GeoIssues) shared a map of earthquake probabilities across the United States from the U.S. Geological Survey (@USGS), which you can find at For more information on earthquakes, check out our Earthquake Basics and register...

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

Defining the Problem The density and value of its buildings place New Jersey tenth among all states for potential economic loss from earthquakes (Fig. 1) [as of 2005]1. Soft soils amplify the motion of earthquake waves, producing greater ground shaking and increasing the stresses on structures....

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

Defining the Problem The 800-mile long Trans-Alaska Pipeline can carry 2 million barrels of oil per day equal to 17% of the nation’s daily consumption [these data come from the early 2000s; crude oil consumption in 2017 is only slightly lower]. A major earthquake along the Denali Fault where the...

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.

Research Database Publications

Cover of mdquakes03; Source: Maryland Geological Survey
2003, Maryland Geological Survey (MGS)
Earthquakes can be among the most devastating and terrifying of natural hazards. Although floods, tornadoes and hurricanes account for much greater annual loss in the United States, severe earthquakes pose the largest risk in terms of sudden loss of life and property. There are many interrelated...
Cover of U.S. Geological Survey_2014-1045; Source: U.S. Geological Survey
2014, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
As part of the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) multi-hazards project in the Long Valley Caldera-Mono Lake area, the California Geological Survey (CGS) developed several earthquake scenarios and evaluated potential seismic hazards, including ground shaking, surface fault rupture, liquefaction, and...
Earthquakes in Arkansas, Arkansas Geological Survey
2012, Arkansas Geological Survey (AGS)
Numerous earthquakes occur every year throughout the State of Arkansas, but most go unnoticed. Earthquakes that are felt can be startling, and serve as good reminders that Arkansas is located near one of the most hazardous earthquake zones in the country. Earthquakes have been historically...
Cover of Earthquakes Briefing; Source: The Geological Society
2012, The Geological Society of London (GSL)
More than 200,000 earthquakes are recorded each year, though it is estimated that several million occur globally. Many of these go undetected because their magnitude is small or they occur in areas which are not closely monitored. Most seismic events (earthquakes) are very minor, and do not cause...
Cover of OFR2015-1 ; Source: Oklahoma Geological Survey
2015, Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS)
The Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) located 5,417 earthquakes during 2014, throughout 40 counties in Oklahoma (Figure 1); this is the greatest number of earthquakes that have occurred in a single year in Oklahoma’s recorded seismic history. Of the earthquakes reported in 2014, 967 were reported as...
Cover of ofr20161071; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2016, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The magnitude 4.0 earthquake that occurred on October 16, 2012, near Hollis Center and Waterboro in southwestern Maine surprised and startled local residents but caused only minor damage. A two-person U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) team was sent to Maine to conduct an intensity survey and document...
Sevicke Jones Building in Cathedral Square, Christchurch, on 22 February 2011.
2011, American Geosciences Institute (AGI)
In the aftermath of the devastating magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami that struck the Tohoku region of Japan on March 11, attention quickly turned away from a much smaller, but also highly destructive earthquake that struck the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, just a few weeks earlier, on Feb...
Cover of OFR2014-1097; Source: U.S. Geological Survey
2014, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) systems can provide as much as tens of seconds of warning to people and automated systems before strong shaking arrives. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) and its partners are developing such an EEW system, called ShakeAlert, for the West Coast of the United...
Cover of mp-15-5; Source: Utah Geological Survey
2015, Utah Geological Survey (UGS)
This proceedings volume documents the results of the third Basin and Range Province Seismic Hazards Summit (BRPSHSIII) convened by the Utah Geological Survey and Western States Seismic Policy Council in Salt Lake City, Utah, on January 12–17, 2015. The purpose of BRPSHSIII was to bring together...
Cover for USGS FS 2014-3018 ; Source: USGS
2014, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The magnitude 9.2 Great Alaska Earthquake that struck south-central Alaska at 5:36 p.m. on Friday, March 27, 1964, is the largest recorded earthquake in U.S. history and the second-largest earthquake recorded with modern instruments. The earthquake was felt throughout most of mainland Alaska, as...