Earthquakes happen…

Alan Kafka
Weston Observatory
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Boston College

On August 12, 2018, an unusually large earthquake (magnitude 6.4) occurred in northern Alaska, in an area that is being considered for oil and gas drilling. See our seismograms below, and this link:

Large Earthquake in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Raises Questions About New Oil Drilling Leases (

Why an earthquake this large happened, in this particular location, and at this particular time remains an enigma.

I think the most important take-home message here is not necessarily the specifics of the oil drilling/environmental issues (although that is, of course, important), but rather that:

We know less about how earthquakes work than is generally thought… Sure plate tectonics explains a lot, but the devil is in the details… Why specific large earthquakes occur where they do, and when they are likely to occur, is usually a mystery…

This is the case in many areas of science that affect people, and that is why Weston Observatory is dedicated to our research, monitoring, and education work, exploring the frontiers of earthquake science.



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