Virginia Earthquakes Virginia Tech Seismological Observatory VTSO

Research at the Virginia Tech Seismological Observatory

Intraplate Earthquakes

At VTSO, we focus on intraplate earthquakes, which are earthquakes that occur within a tectonic plate, rather than at the plate boundaries. In the United States -- and especially on the east coast -- ancient faults criss-cross the continent, and in many places they're still very active. VTSO has researched earthquake zones in central and southwestern Virginia, Charleston, SC and Eastern Tennessee, as well as seismicity and wave propogation throughout the entirety of the central United States.
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"Man-made"/Induced Earthquakes

Intraplate earthquakes used to be much less common, however, increases in wastewater disposal, associated with hydrofracking, have led to a significant rise in the number of induced earthquakes. Central Oklahoma is now more seismically active than San Francisco, CA, and states like Texas, Ohio, Arkansas, Colorado, New Mexico and West Virginia have all seen a spike in the number of earthquakes that residents can feel. We've been monitoring earthquakes and wastewater disposal wells in all of these states to put together a comprehensive database to be used by scientists and the public alike.
Learn more about induced seismicity in the United States.
Track the latest news about induced seismicity.

Virginia Earthquakes

Earthquakes in Virginia are much more common than most people realize. The magnitude 5.8 event in August of 2011 brought public and political attention to the central Virginia seismic zone, but it's been an active region for centuries. In fact, between seismic activity in central Virginia and southwest Virginia, the state averages a magnitude 5 earthquake (or larger) every 50 years. That might not seem very big by California standards, but given how much farther earthquake waves can travel in the eastern United States, that's significant.
Learn more about earthquakes in Virginia.

Southeast United States Earthquakes

Eastern Tennessee is currently one of the most seismically active regions in the country. In the late 1800s, Charleston, South Carolina had one of the largest earthquakes in American history, and the area surrounding the city remains active today. Yet few people are even aware that earthquakes can occur in this part of the country. VTSO is dedicated to researching these earthquakes and others to help develop a better understanding of the hazards and risks associated with seismicity in the eastern United States.
Learn more about seismic activity in the eastern US.