Lessons Learned: When do researchers expect another large earthquake to strike Alaska?
The Alaska Earthquake Center is monitoring earthquakes across the state 24/7, covering more than 660,000 square miles of earth that could rupture at any time.
But how common are major events like what Southcentral experienced back in November 2018?
State Seismologist and Director of the Alaska Earthquake Center Mike West says events like the magnitude 7.1 are very common in the state. He can count about a dozen similar intraslab earthquakes in the last 100 years alone.
"Intraslab earthquakes happen all the time along the Alaska-Aleutian subduction zone, everywhere from Southcentral all the way out into — quite far out into the Aleutians," West said.
But what are the chances we could see another large earthquake beneath Anchorage?
"An earthquake like that, in theory, could happen tomorrow, right next door to where one happened last year. Or it could be, you know, another 100 years,” West said.
West says even a large earthquake of magnitude 8 or larger in Alaska wouldn’t surprise geologists.
The mystery remains in the timing, location, and even the type of the next major earthquake likely to strike Alaska.
"One of the things we do know about the next earthquake is it probably won’t be the one that we're expecting,” West said. “Time and time again the next earthquake always takes a little bit different shape — there's always some surprise."
The bottom line, scientists say, is being prepared for earthquakes and tsunamis should be part of life in Alaska, and we should prepare for them as individuals and as communities, just like we prepare for any other potential natural disasters.
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