Earthquakes in Amarillo? Yep, We’ve Had A Good Shake Or Two
Yesterday, a magnitude 3.3 Earthquake struck the Central Texas town of Nixon (smack dab between between San Antonio and Victoria). And then earlier today, a tsunami warning was issued for Hawai'i after an 8.0 earthquake was registered off the New Zealand coast, according to the USGS.
The Texas quake, for the most part, saw no major damage or injuries reported. As someone who happens to be new to the Amarillo area, I started wondering. Can the same thing happen here? Does Amarillo get earthquakes? Are we sitting on some major tectonic boundary ready to rupture at any moment, spelling our doom?
To answer the first question: Yes.
Amarillo does, in fact, get the shakes every now and then.
To answer the second question: No. We aren't on any major continental tectonic plate boundary. There is no chance of Texas splitting off and falling into the Gulf of Mexico. We are not California.
Some poking around tells me that the last good earthquake that hit the Amarillo area was back in October of 2018. It was registered as a 4.0 magnitude quake. Which isn't life-altering, but definitely enough to let you know something funky is going on.
Most of the earthquakes in the Amarillo area come from activity around the Wichita Uplift. What's really interesting is that the Wichita Uplift can be described as remnants of a prehistoric mountain range. The formation is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it is a source of rich oil and natural gas deposits, which leads to jobs and productivity. On the other hand, we're left with the potential for earthquakes, like the one in 2018.
By the way, if you want to dig into the rabbit hole of earthquakes and the Wichita Uplift (and much more), there's plenty of great papers and research on all of it. Like any other part of the world, there is always a little bit of "bump and grind" going on deep within the bedrocks (who knew they moved at all?). When these rocks get stuck and enough pressure builds up, it's inevitable that they eventually slip and release all that kinetic energy in the form of an earthquake.
The question is not if, but when the next one will occur. If you're thinking that you can beat all this by peacing out and going to the moon, turns out it happens there too. They're just called moonquakes (I can't make this up). But chill out. We got enough going on as is, the best thing to do is to just live your daily life.
We can't predict earthquakes but we can certainly anticipate them. Luckily, the formations here don't seem to spell out any real concern for any major events. Let's worry about something else.