Preliminary results from the investigation of the Pymatuning earthquake of September 25, 1998

Pennsylvania Geology

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The Pymatuning earthquake occurred on Friday, September 25, 1998, at 19:52:52 Universal Coordinated Time (UTC), or 3:52:52 p.m. EDT, near Jamestown, Pa., at the southern end of the Pymatuning Reservoir, which straddles the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. The National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) determined that the event had a magnitude of 5.2 mbLg (a magnitude scale used to measure the size of earthquakes that are regional distances away [100 to 1,000 km, or 60 to 600 mi]), an epicenter of 41.5°N latitude, 80.4°W longitude, and an estimated depth of 5 km (3 mi). One person was reported injured as a result of being thrown to the ground by the earthquake, and it caused minor damage to buildings and seriously disrupted many water wells in the GreenvilleJamestown, Pa., area. The earthquake was generally felt over an area of approximately 200,000 km2 (77,230 mi2) throughout northern Ohio, western Pennsylvania and New York, and much of southern Ontario, Canada (see map on back cover). It was also felt as far west as Illinois and Wisconsin, as far east as New Jersey, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia, and as far south as Kentucky and Virginia. During the aftershock field investigation that commenced within 12 hours of the main shock, a World Wide Web site, <>, was established from the field headquarters. The web site was used not only to transmit investigation results to the world in near real time but also to receive information from the local community as new earthquake effects were reported. As of March 1999, at least 11 aftershocks have occurred, the largest being a magnitude 2.3.

The largest recent previous earthquake in the region was the northeastern Ohio (Leroy) earthquake of magnitude 5.0 that occurred on January 31, 1986, about 65 km (40 mi) west-northwest of the Pymatuning shock. This event was also felt by many of those who felt the Pymatuning earthquake. Similar to most of the seismicity east of the Rocky Mountains, earthquakes in the region are probably shallow (5 to 10 km, or 3 to 6 mi), and Seeber and Armbruster (1993) hypothesized that the earthquakes occurred along preexisting zones of weakness in Precambrian rocks. Wegweiser and others (1998) suggested that seismicity in northwestern Pennsylvania may be associated with the northwest-trending “cross-strike discontinuities” that are recognized in Paleozoic rocks and may represent reactivation of faults in the Precambrian basement. Using structure-contour maps constructed on the tops of lower Paleozoic strata, Alexandrowicz and Cole (1999) found evidence of preexisting northwest-striking faults in the epicentral region of the Pymatuning shock. The Harvard focal mechanism for the Pymatuning earthquake (a method used to infer the slip and orientation of the fault that generated an earthquake) indicates thrust faulting on a northwest striking plane, which is consistent with the regional northeast-southwest compressive stress regime observed in the area. Seeber and Armbruster (1993) plotted three prior earthquakes in the epicentral area having magnitudes greater than 3; two were instrumentally located near the Pymatuning earthquake, and the third event occurred 20 to 30 km (12 to 19 mi) to the northeast in 1852 (Figure 1).

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Journal Article
Preliminary results from the investigation of the Pymatuning earthquake of September 25, 1998
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Pennsylvania Geology
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Pennsylvania Topographic and Geologic Survey
13 p.
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Journal Article
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Pennsylvania Geology
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Canada;United States
Connecticut;District of Columbia;Illinois;Kentucky;New Jersey;New York;Ohio;Pennsylvania;Wisconsin;Virginia
Other Geospatial:
Ontario;Pymatuning Reservoir