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UB earthquake engineer says Canada earthquake was “relatively minor”

Photo of Michael Constantinou.

Earthquakes like the one that occurred May 17 near Ottawa are a good reminder that the East Coast is also susceptible to temblors, says Michael Constantinou.

To reach the Buffalo Niagara region, the seismic waves travelled 220 miles and under Lake Ontario

Release Date: May 17, 2013

“Fortunately, this is a relatively minor earthquake.”
Michael C. Constantinou, UB earthquake engineer
Photo of Michael Constantinou.
High-Res Image

BUFFALO, N.Y. – University at Buffalo earthquake engineer Michael C. Constantinou said while today’s earthquake near Ottawa, Canada, appears to have caused little damage it should nonetheless remind people that the East Coast is not immune to temblors.

“Fortunately, this is a relatively minor earthquake,” said Constantinou, director of the Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory at UB’s MCEER (Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research). “It serves as a reminder, though, that we’re not immune to this type of seismic activity.”

The quake struck at roughly 9:45 a.m. Friday near Shawville, roughly 45 miles northwest of Ottawa. Preliminary measurements from Canada indicated the quake measured at 5.0 or 5.1 on the Richter scale. The U.S. Geological Survey placed it at a 4.4 magnitude temblor.

The quake occurred roughly 6 miles (9.8 kilometers) underground, the USGS said. Reverberations were felt almost immediately in the Buffalo Niagara region (220 miles southwest) and other parts of upstate New York and the Northeast.

Constantinou, professor in UB’s Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, said he isn’t surprised that the quake moved as far and as fast as it did. Past studies, including ones on the 2011 Virginia earthquake, indicate that geologic structure and rock properties on the East Coast allow seismic waves to travel farther without weakening compared to the West Coast, he said.

To reach the Buffalo Niagara region, the waves travelled under Lake Ontario, which at its deepest point is about 250 meters (820 feet) deep. Joseph Atkinson, a professor in UB’s Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering who studies Lake Ontario, said the seismic waves are unlikely to have an impact on the lake.

More information about MCEER can be found here: http://mceer.buffalo.edu.

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