A magnitude 5.7 earthquake early this morning near Noatak marks the fifth quake of exactly that size measured around the northwest Alaska village since April, according to the Alaska Earthquake Information Center. The center, at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has also measured hundreds of smaller aftershocks in the area, some measuring magnitude 4 or greater.
The seismic activity is about 12 miles northeast of Noatak, a village of about 500 people near the Chukchi Sea coast north of Kotzebue, and 25 miles south of the Red Dog Mine.
The unusual "swarm" of earthquakes near Noatak has left residents on edge in the remote region.
There have been no reports no injuries or significant damage, but the shaking left cracks in older buildings on stilts in the village, according to Natasha Ruppert, a seismologist at the center.
Residents are frightened by these fairly strong quakes occurring every two to four weeks, Ruppert said. "People were really concerned, and they still are."
Ruppert and a seismic technician traveled to the village a month ago to meet with residents, local officials and students. The tech installed a seismic sensor there and in Kotzebue. The tectonics of the region are not well-studied, Ruppert said.
The earthquake "swarm" began on April 18 with two magnitude 5.7 quakes 12 minutes apart. Three more of the same magnitude came on May 3, June 9 and today, along with over 300 smaller quakes.
Monday's quake came just after 4 a.m. A magnitude 4.2 earthquake preceded it by one minute, the center said. Numerous magnitude 3 and 4 aftershocks are expected.
There is no immediate explanation for the swarm of quakes and they are not connected to the mine, Ruppert said. There are active seismic faults south of the area, on the Seward Peninsula, but only long-inactive faults in the immediate area, she said.
16 June 2014
A "Swarm" of Earthquakes
As Paul Harvey used to say, "Here is a strange."