Large Earthquake in Ohio?

With the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile I have been thinking about the earthquake potential here in Ohio. Unlike Haiti and Chile, Ohio is not on the edge of a tectonic plate. But we still have an earthquake now and then. Several years ago, I found a USGS website with the capability to plot the location of historical earthquakes in a given geographical area. I created a map, shown above, for earthquakes in the eastern United States.  The map at this link shows additional earthquakes in southeastern Canada…


Human beings have an innate capacity for seeing patterns, sometimes even where there are none. Being human, I can’t escape that tendency. When I look at my map, I see two broad lines of earthquakes, one on each side of the Appalachian mountains and running roughly parallel to the eastern coast of the country. I speculate that these earthquakes occur on cracks and faults in the earth’s crust that are remnants of the collisions and breakups of supercontinents hundreds of millions of years ago. While most of the earthquakes on the map are minor, a number of them have caused structural damage, most notably to chimneys and other masonry structures. A few have been large. The 1811-1812 series of earthquakes in the region around New Madrid, Missouri are among the largest known earthquakes the conterminous United States. That includes California! While they occurred prior to the invention of the seismograph the magnitudes of two of those earthquakes are estimated to have been between 7.2 and 8.0. These and several other large historical earthquakes in the eastern United States and Canada are listed below.

The New Madrid series, including:

1811, December 16, 08:15 UTC. Northeast Arkansas  Magnitude ~7.2 – 8.1

1811, December 16, 14:15 UTC, Northeast Arkansas

1812, January 23, 15:00 UTC, New Madrid, Missouri  Magnitude ~7.0 – 7.8

1812, February 7, 09:45 UTC, New Madrid, Missouri  Magnitude ~7.4 – 8.0

M7.3 Charleston, SC, 1886

Large earthquakes in southeastern Canada, including:

The 1925 Charlevoix-Kamouraska earthquake (Magnitude 6.2);

The 1929 Grand Banks (or Laurentian Slope) earthquake (Magnitude 7.2) which generated a 7 meter tsunami in Newfoundland;

The 1935 Timiskaming (or Témiscaming) earthquake (Magnitude 6.2);

The 1944 Cornwall-Massena earthquake (Magnitude 5.6).

The 1988 Saguenay earthquake (Magnitude 5.9).

There are a number of named seismic zones along the western line of earthquakes. The most famous is the New Madrid seismic zone but the Charlevoix-Kamouraska zone in Quebec also generates a lot of earthquake activity.  In fact all of the Canadian earthquakes listed above except for the Grand Banks event lie on the “line” of earthquakes that runs through Ohio.  Between those two zones there are other lesser known zones in southern Illinois/Indiana, western Ohio near Anna, and northeastern Ohio near Painsville. But the activity seems to thin out through Ohio…is that because that region is just more stable or is it because the stresses are still accumulating in the faults here?  There have been large historical earthquakes on both ends of “our line”.   Ohio is in the middle.  Could we have a large earthquake here in Ohio?

My amateur speculations are generally corroborated in the two page GeoFacts No.3 published by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Geological Survey. But my questions are not answered…the nature of Ohio’s subterranean faults is just not known.

Earthquakes are not something we live with on a daily basis in Ohio.  Most people in Ohio don’t even think about earthquakes.  I don’t expect a large earthquake here during my lifetime…but knowing what I know, however limited that knowledge is,  I won’t be surprised if there is one.


A little more web browsing yielded a more complete description of Ohio seismicity and a listing of significant earthquakes in Ohio…. Earthquakes in Ohio by Michael C. Hansen.  Interesting reading.

Also see my review of Seth Stein’s book “Disaster Deferred – How New Science is changing Our View of Earthquake Hazards in the Midwest”

4 thoughts on “Large Earthquake in Ohio?

  1. Hi,

    It is quite obvious that earthquakes are unleashing worldwide. There is a free book on forthcoming events such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and eventually Earth’s pole shift, all of them triggered by the approach of planet Hercolubus or Nibiru. That book is an important alert and a guide to prepare ourselves for the coming times.

    Just go to and click on the ‘free copy’ link. There are translations to several languages.

  2. Thank you for your comment. I think that if you look at the historical record you will find that earthquakes have been unleashing worldwide for many years and, in fact, always have. The distribution of earthquakes in both time and magnitude is surprisingly constant. The causes of earthquakes and the other phenomena you mention are well-understood in terms of science although, as in the case of the ancient subterranean fault structure in Ohio, some of the details are not well known.

    We really don’t need to rely on any mysterious or supernatural entity to explain them.

  3. hey there im tryin to move outta ca because of earthquakes.
    i was thinking of moving to ohio but after reading this im scared. so is it possible that a big one is hapinning in ohio? lets say there is gonna be a big one in center of the madrid fault how big will the magnitude be in ohio??

  4. I haven’t lost any sleep worrying about earthquakes in Ohio…I might in CA. As for the New Madrid earthquake, take a look here for a map of estimated intensities following the historic earthquakes there and here for an explanation of what the intensity numbers mean. I don’t lose any sleep over that one either. Large earthquakes in the eastern US are low probability events…not likely but possible.

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