New England and nearby areas in the United States and Canada have a long and storied history of earthquakes that goes back to the times of the earliest exploration and settlement of the region by Europeans. This may come as a surprise to the many people living in the region today who have never felt a local earthquake. Nevertheless, not only is it true, but there is every reason to believe that earthquakes, including some damaging earthquakes, will strike New England in the future. In fact, in the 1960s Boston, Massachusetts was given the same seismic hazard rating as Los Angeles, California because both had experienced strong earthquakes in their historic pasts. Since then seismologists have learned much about the rates at which earthquakes occur throughout the country and about the effects of the earthquakes when they occur. Today, we know that the probability of damaging earthquake shaking in Boston is about twenty-five times less than in Los Angeles. Even so, the threat of earthquakes in Boston, throughout New England, and in adjacent regions is one that cannot be ignored. From the 1638 so-called “Pilgrim’s Earthquake” to anticipating what the future may hold, John E. Ebel introduces you to the surprising history of earthquakes in the northeast corridor.
John E. Ebel has been a professor of Earth and Environmental sciences at Boston College for over 30 years and is and the Director of British Columbia’s Weston Observatory that is used to detect, locate, catalog and study all earthquakes that occur in New England and vicinity. He holds a B.A. degree in physics from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology. Additionally, he has been a consultant on seismic hazard for over 20 major engineering projects such as highway bridges, LNG tanks, dams and other critical structures in the United States, the Bahamas, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Jordan, Puerto Rico, Chile and Tunisia. He lives in Natick, Massachusetts.