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Sep 15 2014

Are there Earthquakes in Canada?

Earthquakes are among the most devastating natural disasters – particularly as there are no ways to prevent them.Earthquakes occur along active faults in the earth’s crust, when the tectonic plates which comprise this crust slide past each other, collide, or diverge.

Earthquakes In Canada

The Haiti earthquake in 2010 was one of the worst natural disasters in recent years. This magnitude 7.0 earthquake led to over 100,000 deaths from the initial event, aftershocks, and the cholera outbreak resulting from disruption in health services.

The tsunami which causedmassivedestruction in Japan in 2011 was caused by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake deep under the ocean. This earthquake led to over 15,000 deaths and a meltdown at a nuclear power plant.

These humanitarian disasters are on a scale that many in Canada cannot readily comprehend. But earthquakes are common worldwide, including Canada.

Earthquake zones in Canada

There are earthquake zones (also called seismic zones) in both western and eastern Canada. The Geological Survey of Canada records over 1000 earthquakes every year, though most cause no damage. However, geological evidence suggests that devastating subduction earthquakes strike the west coast every 300 to 800 years.

Earthquakes do also occur in eastern Canada, for instance along the Western Quebec Seismic Zone. Historically, however, the most damaging earthquakes in Canada have been along the Pacific Coast.

The Pacific Coast is the most earthquake-prone region of Canada. It is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The Japanese earthquake mentioned above was also located in the Ring of Fire. Earthquakes occur on Canada’s west coast along offshore faults, within the subducting ocean plate, and within the continental crust. For example, the Pacific plate is sliding northwest about 6 cm per year relative to Canada. The largest earthquake in Canada was in this area: a magnitude 8.1 in 1949 which caused a 500 km length segment of the Queen Charlotte fault to break.

Earthquake research

Earthquakes cannot be prevented. However, in time earthquake researchers hope to provide earthquake warnings, which would reduce or even prevent loss of life.

Promising new technologies in earthquake research include gradiometry, which detects the subtle magnetic responses appearing hours and even weeks before earthquakes. It measures the piezomagnetic and/or piezokinetic effects prior to large earthquakes.

Earthquake map: 30 days of Canadian earthquakes.

This map shows the location of the 269 earthquakes which occurred in Canada from June 13 to July 14, 2014. (Map from Earthquakes Canada)

Earthquake Map

Sources used in researching this article include Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti: Public Forums in Canada Air Concerns Over Earthquake Relief in Haiti and Natural Resources Canada: Earthquake Zones in Canada

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