- Earthquakes are so rare on the East Coast that scientists still don't have a good picture of the fault system there.
- Major offshore quakes are unlikely on the East Coast and much less of a concern than in the Pacific Northwest.
- Smaller offshore quakes could cause underwater landslides that in turn, could produce Atlantic tsunamis.
When a rare earthquake shook the northeastern United States yesterday, residents reacted with a mix of excitement, fear, panic, humor and then lots of questions.
Among the concerns was the possibility of a tsunami. Even though yesterday's quake, for a variety of reasons, posed no threat of creating devastating waves, the question remains -- could a seismic event some day spark a tsunami on the East Coast, much like the ones that have devastated Japan, Indonesia and other parts of the world in recent years?
Not likely. But it's also not impossible, according to experts. For now, risk-assessment is a challenging problem. With so little historical evidence to work with, scientists still don't have a good picture of exactly how plates and faults are structured beneath the East Coast. It's also unclear how frequently earthquakes are expected to strike there.