Hurricane Sandy Created Seismic Activity as Far Away as the West Coast

Sandy’s ground-shaking effects were detected across the country.

Sandy continues inland in this image taken at 6 a.m. EDT. Courtesy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and NOAA.

Sandy, inland, in this image taken at 6 a.m. EDT Oct. 29 courtesy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and NOAA.


Hurricane Sandy's waves, driving rain and wind weren't the only things doing damage to the New York region last October: Researchers say that the hurricane was strong enough to register on seismometers—which are used to measure earthquake magnitudes—as far away as the West coast.

"We detected seismic waves created by the ocean's waves both hitting the East coast and smashing into each other," Keith Koper, director of the University of Utah's seismograph stations, said in a released statement. According to Koper, the so-called "microseisms"—small waves of seismic energy—were strong enough to register as about a magnitude 3 earthquake.

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Koper said that Hurricane Sandy did not register as an "earthquake," but that its waves was powerful enough to shake the ground, much like an earthquake does. Koper and his colleague, Oner Sufri, presented preliminary findings of their research at the Seismological Society of America's annual meeting in Salt Lake City Thursday.

His team is currently looking into whether hurricanes and other events could trigger small earthquakes in their aftermath.

Unsurprisingly, the strongest readings during Hurricane Sandy occurred close to where the hurricane made landfall, but small recordings were gathered on seismometers in the pacific northwest.

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According to Koper, when Sandy turned north up the coast, its waves began to crash into one another, creating "standing waves" that generated significant pressure on the ocean floor, which eventually registered on seismometers across the country.

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