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Recording Kansas Earthquakes

The Kansas Geological Survey maintained a seismograph network to study Kansas earthquakes from December 1977 to June 1989. The network could pick up ground movements 1000 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair. The recording stations could even detect artillery firings at Fort Riley from 30 miles (50 km) away and also registered large earthquakes from locations as distant as Japan and South America.

During 12 years of recording, more than 200 small earthquakes in Kansas and Nebraska were registered (Fig. 7). The largest of these measured about magnitude 4.0 on the Richter Scale, and the smallest was magnitude 0.8. Seismograms from an earthquake that occurred southeast of Seneca, Kansas, on January 27, 1978, are shown in Figure 9. The record of the earthquake appears as a broad black area. These recordings are from stations at Milford Reservoir, Hiawatha, and Tuttle Creek Reservoir, Kansas. The Tuttle Creek recording also shows some smaller blackened areas caused by artillery explosions at Fort Riley.

Figure 9--Seismograms from January 27, 1978, earthquake that occurred southeast of Seneca, Kansas.

Three seismograms

In Kansas, earthquakes occur along the Humboldt fault zone or the Nemaha Ridge in a zone running from Omaha to Oklahoma City. In the late 1980's, some small earthquakes also occurred northeast of Hays and in Palco, about 30 miles (50 km) northwest of Hays. These earthquakes occurred along faults associated with the Central Kansas Uplift (Fig. 8). Many of these tremors had magnitudes of about 2 on the Richter scale, although the largest one at Palco was a magnitude 4.0 earthquake that did minor damage.

The amount of earthquake activity observed in Kansas between 1977 and 1989 is consistent with the number and location of earthquakes experienced between 1867 and 1976, and Kansas will continue to have occasional, unpredictable, small-to-moderate earthquakes. By combining historical earthquake data with that obtained between 1977 and 1989, seismologists estimate that a magnitude 6.0 earthquake may occur in Kansas about every 2000 years.

For Further Information

If you are interested in learning more about earthquakes, the following books are a good place to start.

Bolt, Bruce, 1993, Earthquakes, third edition: New York, Freeman and Co., 331 p.

Coch, N. K., 1995, Geohazards: Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice-Hall, 481 p.

Decker, R., and Decker, B., 1989, Volcanoes, second edition: New York, Freeman and Co., 285 p.

Kovach, Robert L., 1995, Earth's Fury--An Introduction to Natural Hazards and Disasters: Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice-Hall, 214 p.

Officer, Charles, and Page, Jake, 1993, Tales of the Earth: Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press, 226 p.

Robinson, Andrew, 1993, Earth Shock: London , Thames and Hudson Inc., 304 p.

Additional information is available on the World Wide Web. We've listed only a few, but these will connect you to a range of up-to-date information on earthquakes.

Earthquake Information from the U.S.G.S.
Earthquake Education and Resources from the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources
National Earthquake Information Center from the U.S.G.S.
Seismosurfing the Internet from The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network

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Kansas Geological Survey, Public Outreach
1930 Constant Ave., Lawrence, KS 66047-3726
Phone: (785) 864-3965, Fax: (785) 864-5317
Comments to
Web version March 31, 1998