Earthquakes are a scary and fascinating fact of life in America’s Last Frontier. As of 1:24 p.m. on June 22, 2016, there have been 18,011 earthquakes in Alaska since the beginning of the year. That statistic includes a January 24th 7.1-magnitude event centered about 50 miles deep below the earth’s surface near Cook Inlet about 162 miles southwest of Anchorage.
Alaska has more earthquakes than all of the other U.S. states combined with 50 to 100 earthquakes occurring daily. Most are not even felt, but about once every 13 years, Alaska has a quake measuring at least 8 on the Richter Scale.
Alaska is located at the intersection of two great tectonic plates; enormous slabs of rock just under the earths surface that crunch against one another: The North Pacific Plate, beneath the Pacific Ocean, and the North American Plate, which covers most of North America. The North Pacific Plate is being sub ducted or forced beneath the North American plate. The two plates don’t move smoothly and friction locks the two plates building energy until the strain causes a rapid release in the form of an earth quake.
The second largest earthquake ever recorded in world history happened in Alaska on March 27, 1964. The 9.2-magnitude quake struck in the early evening releasing ten million times more energy than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in World War II. The quake generated a tsunami and a change in water levels around the globe. Earthquake Park, a 134-acre park in the woods just outside Anchorage, commemorates the 1964 earthquake during which an entire neighborhood slipped into the ocean
The same forces of nature that make Alaska one of the most geologically active places on Earth also give the State its breathtaking mountain views. Some of those mountains smoke! More than 40 of the world’s active volcanoes are located in Alaska, most along the Aleutian Arc.
One of the greatest eruptions in Alaska history occurred in 1912 in what is now known as Katmai National Park and Preserve. Scientists believed for more than 50 years that Mount Katmai was the source of the eruption but eventually found that nearly all of the magma came from nearby upstart named Novarupta (new eruption). A foot of ash darkened the skies and fell on the town of Kodiak, a hundred miles from the volcano. Ash falls reached as far away as 1,500 miles and Puget Sound. Volcanic material filled a glacier-carved valley which is known today as the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, named for the thousands of steam jets that dotted the valley’s ashen floor for years following the eruption. Tourists can explore the valley and experience the other worldly character of the barren landscape of ash and volcanic rock devoid of trees.
Community Blood Center (CBC) is giving away an Alaskan Adventure for Two in September. Everyone, 18 and older, who registers to donate blood with CBC now through September 3, 2016, will be automatically entered to win. Visit GivingBlood.org to learn more.