March 27

Great Alaskan Earthquake Photo Credit: NOAA via WikiMedia.

Today in Science

The Great Alaskan Earthquake

The strongest earthquake ever to strike North America hit Prince William Sound 80 miles east of Anchorage, Alaska, on this date in 1964. It is the second strongest earthquake worldwide since they began being scientifically measured (slightly higher than the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake that caused the deadly tsunamis in Indonesia).

The earthquake had a magnitude of 9.2 and created a tsunami that measured more than 100 feet high at some points.

The earthquake, which lasted less than four minutes, killed 15 people. The resulting tsunami claimed an additional 119 lives, including 16 people in California and Oregon. Post-quake tsunamis were seen as far away as Hawaii and Japan. Total property damage caused by the earthquake, the tsunamis, and landslides in Alaska, Canada, Hawaii and the West Coast of the U.S. was an estimated four million dollars.

The Great Alaskan Earthquake was a megathrust earthquake, caused by an oceanic plate wedging under a continental plate and then snapping back into place. Since 1900, all the earthquakes that have had a magnitude exceeding 9.0 have been megathrust earthquakes.

Check out our Earthquakes collection to learn more.

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