Central Albertans need not be concerned about catastrophic earthquakes despite the 5.0 magnitude earthquake that struck west of Rocky Mountain House on Wednesday night, says a Simon Fraser University professor.
“You should be much more concerned about tornadoes,” said Brent Ward, Simon Fraser University professor and co-director of the Centre for Natural Hazards Research.
“We don’t see any trend of natural earthquakes increasing in frequency. It’s just sometimes you notice it because there will be earthquakes that affect where people live and it gets in the news.”
Wednesday’s earthquake was the second most powerful quake in Alberta since reporting began. A 5.4 earthquake in 2001 was detected around Dawson Creek.
He said at 5.0, the Rocky earthquake was significant, but it’s not going to do any damage.
The earthquake was detected at 9:23 p.m. 37 km northwest of Rocky Mountain House could be felt as far away as Edmonton.
He said some may have felt it, but it’s also likely that others did not, or they thought a big truck had driven by, or a train, or something fell against their house.
“But certainly it caused a lot of excitement. A lot of people felt it over a fairly wide area.”
Ward said the vast majority of earthquakes are natural, unlike those caused by mining or fracking, and there is more seismic activity further north in Alberta.
“They are going to be focused as you get closer to the Rocky Mountains because there’s a lot of faults there. Those are planes of weakness and there are stresses that build up in the rocks and every so often you get a fracture along one of those pre-existing faults and it triggers an earthquake.”
He said across the globe, earthquakes are happening all the time and people can find out where they are happening at websites like the United States Geological Survey at USGS.gov.
The Rocky earthquake was detected by a seismic station in Edmonton.
“There’s so many seismometres around the globe almost all earthquakes are detected. We’ve got this incredible network.”