6.1 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Northern Alaska

August 12, 2018 Last Updated: August 12, 2018

A 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck northern Alaska on Aug. 12, hitting a remote area in the state’s North Slope region.

The quake hit the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge about 52 miles southwest of Kaktovik, 85 miles southeast of Deadhorse, 85 miles southeast of Prudhoe Bay, and 104 miles north of Arctic Village, said the Alaska Earthquake Center.

“There are no known or expected human impacts,” said the earthquake center on Twitter. “We’ll share info as we put it together.”

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit at a depth of about 6 miles at 6:58 a.m. local time.

Kaktovik, located on the northern Beaufort Sea coast, is the nearest community, and there were no reports of any damage, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

The quake was initially recorded as 6.5 on the Richter scale, but it was revised down to 6.1.

In January, a powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake off the Pacific Coast triggered a tsunami warning along the state’s southern coast. People in British Columbia, Canada, also got the warning.

alaska today earthquake
A 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck northern Alaska on Aug. 12, 2018. (USGS)

Ring of Fire

In 1964, a 9.2 magnitude earthquake that’s now known as the Great Alaskan earthquake or Good Friday earthquake triggered tsunamis, ground fissures, and destroyed structures in Anchorage, the state’s largest city. Dozens of people died in the quake.

“The 1964 Alaskan tsunami is the largest and most destructive recorded tsunami to ever strike the United States Pacific Coast. Along the Washington coast, tsunami waves destroyed houses, cars, boats, and fishing gear, causing an estimated $80,000 in damage to roads and bridges alone. At Ocean City, 5- to 6-foot tsunami waves collapsed the bridge over Copalis River. Wave heights at Moclips, Sea View, La Push, and Wreck Creek reached an estimated 11, 12, 5, 7, and 15 feet, respectively,” according to the University of Southern California’s website.

The Ring of Fire, home to more than 450 active and dormant volcanoes. (U.S. Geological Survey)
The Ring of Fire, home to more than 450 active and dormant volcanoes. (U.S. Geological Survey)

The massive quake “caused many large landslides and submarine slumps, which in turn produced destructive local tsunamis at many locations along the Alaskan coast,” the university wrote. “Due to the orientation of the fault that generated the tsunami, the largest waves outside of Alaska, occurred along the northwest Pacific coasts of Canada and the United States.”

In January 2016, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit Alaska near Cook Inlet about 162 miles southwest of Anchorage. “When it hit, it was just soft at first, and it just kept getting bigger,” a photographer told CNN at the time. “It was one of those moments where you didn’t’ know if it was going to get worse or if it was going to calm down.”

Alaska, along with the U.S. West Coast, is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a seismically active region that encircles the Pacific Ocean. About 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes are registered in the region, the USGS said.

An earthquake swarm struck off the coast of Northern California and Oregon last month, but no tsunami warnings were issued. A number of the quakes were located around 120 miles from the Gold Beach, Oregon, according to the USGS.

Don Blakeman, a geophysicist at the National Earthquake Information Center, told OregonLive that the strength of the undersea earthquakes hasn’t yet been serious. He added these can occur fairly often.

Tsunamis are not likely until at least a 7-magnitude earthquake is recorded, he told the website.