Just a few short days ago, the Garden State and surrounding regions were rattled by one of the strongest earthquakes in this area’s recent history. No doubt a different experience from our day to day lives, you will likely never forget where you were the day this natural phenomenon struck. While earthquakes are not a common occurrence in our region of the country, the possibility of a shake-up always remains at play. Today, let’s explore why earthquakes happen, where they originate, and how earthquakes have manifested in New Jersey’s historic past.

So what exactly causes an earthquake? Resting beneath the surface is an intricate network of tectonic plates, which are a key element of the Earth’s crust. Interspersed between these plate are fault lines, which are cracks that allow the plates to move and shift. If two of these plates were to intersect and cross one another, an earthquake will occur. The seismic energy of the two plates passing by one another causes the ground to rumble and shake, thereby creating that distant earthquake sensation. Per the USGS, when determining how severe an earthquake will be, “stronger rock material, or a larger area, or more movement in an earthquake will all contribute to produce a larger magnitude”. Essentially, the more ground these plates cover, the more ground you’ll feel shaking above!

After our recent earthquake, you may have heard folks talking about how fault lines can be reactivated after extended periods of dormancy. Scientists are now discovering that lying beneath the surface of the Garden State is an ancient fault line which has not been active in some time. As some of the fault lines beneath the state are still unknown, it is not certain exactly where the seismic shift occurred, but it is confirmed that it emerged somewhere within the Ramapo fault zone in the Newark basin. Fault lines can be reactivated at any time, so while this earthquake certainly came as a shock to us people, nature reassures us that this is a perfectly normal occurrence in the natural world.

If you want to have a look back at an earthquake similar to the one you experienced the other day, you’ll have to go all the way back to our Colonial predecessors, as New Jersey hasn’t had an earthquake this strong since 1783. Considering that our understanding of earthquakes has improved immensely since then, it must have been quite a shock to our 18th century friends when the ground began to shake! On November 29th, 1783, an earthquake hit at 3:50am, delivering a whopping 5.3 impact on the richter scale. Not only a jarring natural phenomena, this earthquake also marked the first recorded earthquake in New Jersey’s history. Although much has changed since 1783, the magnitude of this momentous occasion was just as strong today as it was all those years ago.

No matter who you are or where you’re from, a deep respect and appreciation for nature will take you far. While these extreme weather events may be a bit scary, it is also a humbling reminder of the power of nature and the world around us. Staying prepared and up to date on the latest safety precautions is a vital step to assure that no matter what life throws our way, we’re ready to do what it takes to keep our loved ones and community safe. This past week certainly shook up our world, but we can take heart knowing that when earthquakes come our way, New Jerseyans both past and present have always come back stronger than ever before.

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