Earthquake activity in the New York City area


Although the eastern United States is not as seismically active as regions near plate boundaries, large and damaging earthquakes do occur there. Furthermore, when these rare eastern U.S. earthquakes occur, the areas affected by them are much larger than for western U.S. earthquakes of the same magnitude. Thus, earthquakes represent at least a moderate hazard to East Coast cities, including New York City and adjacent areas of very high population density.

Seismicity in the vicinity of New York City. Data are from the U.S. Geological Survey (Top, USGS) and the National Earthquake Information Center (Bottom, NEIC). In the top figure, closed red circles indicate 1924-2006 epicenters and open black circles indicate locations of the larger earthquakes that occurred in 1737, 1783 and 1884. Green lines indicate the trace of the Ramapo fault.

As can be seen in the maps of earthquake activity in this region(shown in the figure), seismicity is scattered throughout most of the New York City area, with some hint of a concentration of earthquakes in the area surrounding Manhattan Island. The largest known earthquake in this region occurred in 1884 and had a magnitude of approximately 5. For this earthquake, observations of fallen bricks and cracked plaster were reported from eastern Pennsylvania to central Connecticut, and the maximum intensity reported was at two sites in western Long Island (Jamaica, New York and Amityville, New York). Two other earthquakes of approximately magnitude 5 occurred in this region in 1737 and 1783. The figure on the right shows maps of the distribution of earthquakes of magnitude 3 and greater that occurred in this region from 1924 to 2010, along with locations of the larger earthquakes that occurred in 1737, 1783 and 1884.


The NYC area is part of the geologically complex structure of the Northern Appalachian Mountains. This complex structure was formed during the past half billion years when the Earth’s crust underlying the Northern Appalachians was the site of two major geological episodes, each of which has left its imprint on the NYC area bedrock. Between about 450 million years ago and about 250 million years ago, the Northern Appalachian region was affected by a continental collision, in which the ancient African continent collided with the ancient North American continent to form the supercontinent Pangaea. Beginning about 200 million years ago, the present-day Atlantic ocean began to form as plate tectonic forces began to rift apart the continent of Pangaea. The last major episode of geological activity to affect the bedrock in the New York area occurred about 100 million years ago, during the Mesozoic era, when continental rifting that led to the opening of the present-day Atlantic ocean formed the Hartford and Newark Mesozoic rift basins.

Earthquake rates in the northeastern United States are about 50 to 200 times lower than in California, but the earthquakes that do occur in the northeastern U.S. are typically felt over a much broader region than earthquakes of the same magnitude in the western U.S.This means the area of damage from an earthquake in the northeastern U.S. could be larger than the area of damage caused by an earthquake of the same magnitude in the western U.S. The cooler rocks in the northeastern U.S. contribute to the seismic energy propagating as much as ten times further than in the warmer rocks of California. A magnitude 4.0 eastern U.S. earthquake typically can be felt as far as 100 km (60 mi) from its epicenter, but it infrequently causes damage near its source. A magnitude 5.5 eastern U.S. earthquake, although uncommon, can be felt as far as 500 km (300 mi) from its epicenter, and can cause damage as far away as 40 km (25 mi) from its epicenter. Earthquakes stronger than about magnitude 5.0 generate ground motions that are strong enough to be damaging in the epicentral area.

At well-studied plate boundaries like the San Andreas fault system in California, scientists can often make observations that allow them to identify the specific fault on which an earthquake took place. In contrast, east of the Rocky Mountains this is rarely the case.  The NYC area is far from the boundaries of the North American plate, which are in the center of the Atlantic Ocean, in the Caribbean Sea, and along the west coast of North America. The seismicity of the northeastern U.S. is generally considered to be due to ancient zones of weakness that are being reactivated in the present-day stress field. In this model, pre-existing faults that were formed during ancient geological episodes persist in the intraplate crust, and the earthquakes occur when the present-day stress is released along these zones of weakness. The stress that causes the earthquakes is generally considered to be derived from present-day rifting at the Mid-Atlantic ridge.

Earthquakes and geologically mapped faults in the Northeastern U.S.

The northeastern U.S. has many known faults, but virtually all of the known faults have not been active for perhaps 90 million years or more. Also, the locations of the known faults are not well determined at earthquake depths. Accordingly, few (if any) earthquakes in the region can be unambiguously linked to known faults. Given the current geological and seismological data, it is difficult to determine if a known fault in this region is still active today and could produce a modern earthquake. As in most other areas east of the Rocky Mountains, the best guide to earthquake hazard in the northeastern U.S. is probably the locations of the past earthquakes themselves.

The Ramapo fault and other New York City area faults

The Ramapo Fault, which marks the western boundary of the Newark rift basin, has been argued to be a major seismically active feature of this region,but it is difficult to discern the extent to which the Ramapo fault (or any other specific mapped fault in the area) might be any more of a source of future earthquakes than any other parts of the region. The Ramapo Fault zone spans more than 185 miles (300 kilometers) in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. It is a system of faults between the northern Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont areas to the east. This fault is perhaps the best known fault zone in the Mid-Atlantic region, and some small earthquakes have been known to occur in its vicinity. Recently, public knowledge about the fault has increased – especially after the 1970s, when the fault’s proximity to the Indian Point nuclear plant in New York was noticed.

There is insufficient evidence to unequivocally demonstrate any strong correlation of earthquakes in the New York City area with specific faults or other geologic structures in this region. The damaging earthquake affecting New York City in 1884 was probably not associated with the Ramapo fault because the strongest shaking from that earthquake occurred on Long Island (quite far from the trace of the Ramapo fault). The relationship between faults and earthquakes in the New York City area is currently understood to be more complex than any simple association of a specific earthquake with a specific mapped fault.

A 2008 study argued that a magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake might originate from the Ramapo fault zone, which would almost definitely spawn hundreds or even thousands of fatalities and billions of dollars in damage. Studying around 400 earthquakes over the past 300 years, the study also argued that there was an additional fault zone extending from the Ramapo Fault zone into southwestern Connecticut. As can be seen in the above figure of seismicity, earthquakes are scattered throughout this region, with no particular concentration of activity along the Ramapo fault, or along the hypothesized fault zone extending into southwestern Connecticut.

Just off the northern terminus of the Ramapo fault is the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, built between 1956 and 1960 by Consolidated Edison Company. The plant began operating in 1963, and it has been the subject of a controversy over concerns that an earthquake from the Ramapo fault will affect the power plant. Whether or not the Ramapo fault actually does pose a threat to this nuclear power plant remains an open question.

The Hegemony of Iran (Daniel 8:4)

Tehran Has Become Pivotal to the Future of the Middle East

Mohammed Nuruzzaman

Despite US threats, Iran seems to have emerged more powerful than ever, expanding its sphere of influence in the Gulf region and in the Levant.

Iran and the US are once again on a dangerous collision course. President Donald Trump’s search for excuses to decertify the July 2015 nuclear deal, negotiated by the Barack Obama administration, is exacerbating new tensions in their frayed relations.

The US, in a bid to keep the Iranians in check and maintain its interests in the Middle East, has threatened or used a host of options, including possible military attacks, diplomatic isolation and economic sanctions.

The latest of these has seen a ban of Apple mobile applications across the country, as reported by the New York Times on August 24.

Despite all this, Iran seems to have emerged more powerful in recent years and has now expanded its sphere of influence in the Gulf region and in the Levant. One of Iran’s assets has been its military development over the past decade.

President Hassan Rouhani has, according to a 2015 British report, given the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) an annual cybersecurity budget of around US$19.8 million. Iranian military equipment is now a growing factor on the regional arms markets in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, as Iran trades with governments and militia groups.

The IRGC forces are also now capable of projecting power across the Middle East, sending military advisers, volunteers and training professionals to Iraqi and Syrian governments and different militia groups.

In June this year, Tehran for the first time fired medium-range missiles on Islamic State targets in Syria. It has also successfully produced and tested long-range ballistic missiles, main battle tanks and unmanned aerial vehicles, in addition to domestically built submarines and attack boats. According to the Israeli prime minister, Iran is also building missile factories and sites in Syria and Lebanon.

The US involuntary hand

How has Iran managed to extend its influence in this way?

The 2003 US invasion of Iraq was a turning point for Iran. Indeed, President George W Bush’s “war on terror” was unintentionally of great benefit to Iran.

Shia-majority Iran’s two bitter enemies – the fiercely pro-Saudi Sunni Taliban government in Afghanistan and the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq were under fire from the US. The risks of attacks on Iran from the eastern and western borders were lessened – this despite the Bush administration’s relentless threats of regime change. The occupation of Iraq also encouraged the Iranian government’s nuclear program.

Power enhancement

Iran’s strategy of increasing its power has centred on the promotion of cross-border Shia solidarity, and the development of what the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has called “resistance economy”.

During the Iran-Iraq war (1980–1988) the Sunni-dominated Saddam regime in Iraq, then aided by the US and the Gulf Arab states, seriously damaged Iran.

Since then, Iranians have cultivated strong political, economic and sectarian ties with Iraqi Shias hoping to eliminate future Iraqi threats to Iranian security. This strategy has paid off. In 2010 elections, Iran-supported Shia political parties and groups emerged victorious in Iraq, and they are now controlling political power in Baghdad. It has been a significant objective of Tehran to check the rise of Sunni extremist groups and thus stave off future Sunni dominance in Iraqi politics.

The following year, the Arab spring and Syrian war brought an unexpected opportunity. Tehran sided with its only Arab strategic partner – the secular government of President Bashar Al-Assad, an Alawite Shia, and backed the growth of its traditional Lebanese ally Hezbollah, a Shia organisation which was also fighting in Syria.

At the same time, the rise of various Sunni extremist groups, including ISIS, shaped Iran’s role in the Middle East more broadly as the defender of Shia Muslims. What is more, Russia’s direct military intervention in Syria in 2015 put Iran and Russia on the same strategic page, as a powerful counter force to the US-Saudi bloc.

Iran has also cut a political and economic niche in the ongoing Saudi – Qatari diplomatic rift by siding with Qatar and providing the tiny Gulf state with food supplies and other imports.

Resistance economy

Resistance economy is Iran’s deft strategy to survive in a hostile global economic environment. Designed to counter the corrosive effects of US and EU sanctions, it seeks to reduce Iran’s vulnerabilities to global and regional economic shocks through domestic capacity building, develop a knowledge-based economy and improve industrial production and technological competitiveness. Another big objective is to decrease dependence on oil and gas – Iran’s principal source of revenues until now.

Thanks to these efforts, Tehran now directly challenges America’s hopes to create a pro-American regional order, maintain secure access to Persian Gulf oil and defend the traditional Arab allies.

Iran wants the US to at least curtail its presence in the Middle East, if not to totally pack up and leave the region. It sees US military and naval presence in the Persian Gulf as completely unacceptable. This is a major cause of concern for America’s Gulf allies who heavily depend on US military supplies and cooperation for their security.

Indeed, Iran’s growing influence is making Israel and Saudi Arabia very nervous. The Hezbollah connection has already prompted Israel and the US to support anti-Assad rebels.

Saudi Arabia views Iran’s role as a power broker in Iraq and Syria as a big loss to its regional power and influence. Riyadh also decries Iran’s involvements in Arab affairs, which, it deems, aims at seeking regional hegemony.

Iran, in a sign of defiance of US sanctions, could today be more determined to complete its ballistic missile program. As tensions ratchet up between Washington and Tehran, worst-case scenarios such as armed confrontations are growing.

Whatever follows, it is clear the events of recent years have resulted in Iran becoming a pivotal player in the Middle East region.

Muhammad Nuruzzaman is a professor of international relations at the Gulf University of Science and Technology.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Korean Nuclear Tensions Escalate


South Korea conducts live-fire exercises in response to North Korea nuclear test

By Angela Dewan, Eliott C. McLaughlin and Taehoon Lee, CNN

Updated 6:26 PM ET, Sun September 3, 2017

Seoul, South Korea (CNN)[Breaking news update, posted at 6:23 p.m. ET]

South Korea’s Army and Air Force conducted a combined live-fire exercise early Monday morning South Korean time in response to North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, according to a statement form the country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The drill involved surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and the F-15K fighter jets hitting targets off the east coast of South Korea, simulating a strike on a target as far away as North Korea’s nuclear test site, Punggye-ri.

A North Korean nuclear test — labeled by experts as the pariah state’s most powerful ever — drew rebuke from around the globe, including from North Korea’s strongest ally, with several nations joining forces to come up with an appropriate response.

The United States, Japan, France, the United Kingdom and South Korea quickly requested an emergency session of the UN Security Council after the test, which North Korea’s leaders said demonstrated the country was capable of putting an advanced hydrogen bomb atop an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The meeting, now scheduled for Monday at 10 a.m. ET, was announced as UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the North Korean test as “profoundly destabilizing for regional security.”

The power of the blast was not immediately clear. While the seismic tremors it created led a Norwegian group to say it was eight times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, South Korean experts said the yield was less than half the Norwegian group’s estimate.

It’s nearly impossible to verify Pyongyang’s claim that it detonated a hydrogen bomb, experts say, or whether North Korea has the capability to deploy such a weapon on a missile.

Still, the test drew sharp admonitions from several nations, including the United States, which made it clear military action remained among its options.

Sunday’s test — North Korea’s sixth-ever — was 10 times more powerful than its test a year ago, Japanese officials said, and North Korea claims to have developed projectiles with increasingly frightening ranges. If that is true, North Korea may be a step closer to being able to reach the US mainland with one of its warheads, as it has threatened.

While North Korea has ratcheted up its ballistic missile testing this year, amid an exchange of threatening rhetoric with US President Donald Trump, this marks the isolated nation’s first nuclear test of Trump’s presidency.

Trump tweeted that he was meeting with military leaders about North Korea, while also entertaining nonmilitary options, such as “stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.” That’s a relatively short list topped by China, the hermit kingdom’s No. 1 ally, and to a lesser degree, India and Russia, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity.

The secrets of Kim Jong Un’s piggy bank
In other tweets, Trump said China “is trying to help but with little success,” and “South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”

Defense Secretary James Mattis said Sunday that any North Korean threats toward the US or its territories or allies — specifically Guam, Japan and South Korea — would be met with an “effective and overwhelming” response. He further urged leader Kim Jong Un to “take heed of the United Nation’s Security Council unified voice.”

“All members unanimously agreed on the threat North Korea poses and they remain unanimous in their commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula because we are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea, but as I said, we have many options to do so,” Mattis said.

Asked by a reporter Sunday whether the US would attack North Korea, Trump responded: “We’ll see.”

8 times the power of Hiroshima bomb

North Korea’s test came hours after state-run media released images of leader Kim Jong Un inspecting what it said was a hydrogen bomb ready to to top an ICBM, which the country would need to deliver a nuclear warhead to far-away locations.

State news anchor Ri Chun Hee hailed the test as a “perfect success” and the final step in attaining a “state nuclear force.”

The device was about eight times more powerful than the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, according to NORSAR, a Norway-based group that monitors nuclear tests.

Based on the tremors following the test, NORSAR estimated it had an explosive yield of 120 kilotons. Hiroshima’s had 15 kilotons.

South Korean officials gave a more modest estimate of 50 kilotons.

Whatever the yield, the device was powerful, and the test offers the first hint that North Korea could be more developed in its nuclear program than previously thought.

The country has for years worked on nuclear miniaturization so that it can create a warhead small enough to be fired long distances.

International outcry

In addition to drawing White House and UN Security Council condemnation, North Korea’s test also upset many of its neighbors.

A text message to reporters from South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office said the republic was working with the international community to “ensure maximum sanctions and pressures against North Korea’s continued provocations.” It added that the US and South Korea “agree on using sanctions and pressures to have North Korea come to the table for talks.”

The text message concluded, “Korea is a country that has experienced war. … We can’t let this experience be repeated again on this land. We will pursue the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula through peace with our allies.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he spoke with Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday about North Korea’s “reckless act.”

Abe said the US and Japan “stand together 100 percent.” He plans to meet with Putin in Vladivostok, Russia, and the two “have completely agreed to have a close coordination,” Abe told reporters.

Abe demanded “unprecedented strong pressure” on North Korea and said stopping its hostile actions “depends on the solidarity and coordination with the international community.”

In a high-level national security meeting, Moon called the test “an absurd strategic mistake” that would lead Pyongyang to further isolation.

Sanctions designed to isolate the country have in many ways failed. The Kim regime has developed its weapons and nuclear program despite measures that have crippled the economy and exacerbated periods of mass starvation.

The White House, meanwhile, has been accused of sending mixed messages on the issue and lacking a clear strategy.

Trump’s administration is now pursuing what it calls a strategy of “peaceful pressure” to get North Korea to bring its nuclear weapons program to the negotiating table. But the President’s tweets regularly suggest he is not interested in dialogue.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday he is drafting tough sanctions against North Korea, saying, “This isn’t the time for just talk.”

China is also under pressure to do more to deter North Korea’s provocations. Beijing condemned the test.

“We strongly urge (the) North Korea side to face up to the firm will of the international community on the denuclearization of the peninsula, abide by relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council, stop taking wrong actions that exacerbate the situation and are not in its own interest, and return to the track of resolving the issue through dialogue,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

Continued provocation

Tensions between North Korea and the international community flared last week when Pyongyang flew a ballistic missile over Japan for the first time. The US and its allies responded by sending fighter jets and bombers over the Korean Peninsula.

Analysts have said for months that another nuclear test was likely on the way, with satellite imagery revealing that a tunnel had been dug earlier this year.

“For months North Korea refrained from conducting a nuclear test and from launching missiles over Japan,” said David Wright, the co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists Global Security Program. “It now seems to have decided to end that restraint.”

What exactly North Korea set off remains unclear. If its claims are true, it exploded a thermonuclear weapon, which typically uses a fission explosion to create a fusion reaction. That would be far more powerful than a fission reaction.

Sunday’s test comes almost one year after Pyongyang’s fifth nuclear test last September, which triggered a 5.3-magnitude seismological event. That took place September 9, the country’s Foundation Day holiday.

North Korea claimed it set off a thermonuclear weapon during that test, but experts said the data showed it was more likely a boosted fission weapon.

CNN’s Taehoon Lee reported from Seoul, while Angela Dewan wrote from London and Eliott C. McLaughlin wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Joshua Berlinger, Steven Jiang, Sol Han, Brad Lendon, Yazhou Sun, Jill Disis, Yoko Wakatsuki, Carolyn Sung, Elwyn Lopez, Junko Ogura, Barbara Starr and Andreena Narayan contributed to this report.

The Rising Shia Horns (Daniel 8:8)

The enemy of my enemy: The Middle East is tilting towards a new escalation

Ramin Jahanbegloo

Few weeks ago Newsweek reported that Henry Kissinger had advised Donald Trump that ISIS is preferable to Iran. What Kissinger really meant was that the US could not afford to let Iran create a sphere of influence in Syria after the defeat of ISIS.

As such, Kissinger’s solution to the problem of Syria (which is shared by some Israelis) is an anti-ISIS coalition of Sunnis in Syria fighting the Syria-Iranian alliance.

“In these circumstances, the traditional adage that the enemy of your enemy can be regarded as your friend no longer applies. In the contemporary Middle East, the enemy of your enemy may also be your enemy. The Middle East affects the world by the volatility of its ideologies as much as by its specific actions,” wrote Kissinger in an article entitled Chaos and order in a changing world and published in

These days, it is hard not to take Kissinger’s words seriously, as the new Trump administration seems to have come into office with a new agenda for the Middle East. Once again, as in 2002, a number of influential voices inside and outside the US are playing a crucial role in legitimising decisions of Donald Trump to get involved in a dangerous and unnecessary war against Iran.

Since Trump’s earliest days in office, he has repeated the threat that he might unilaterally withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a multilateral agreement unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council.

However, the other parties to the agreement – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia concede that the diplomatic cost of abandoning the agreement would be high. Many agree around the world that if Trump withdraws support for the nuclear deal, the US will be isolated on the issue, much as it is on the climate change agreement.

The Trump administration’s interpretation of the provisions of the 2015 nuclear agreement is that the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors go anywhere in Iran, including the military bases.

But Iran has long said that its most sensitive military locations are off limits. The Iranian government already showed its sensitivity in 2015 when international inspectors of the IAEA demanded access to Parchin, a military base near Tehran where there was evidence of past nuclear work.

Add to this the clash of words between Washington and Tehran concerning what the Trump administration considers beyond the 2015 deal as Iran’s support for terrorism, missile testing and Iran’s activities in Syria and Iraq.

In a sign of continuing struggles over Iran policy, the White House has been reinforcing the US’ strategic posture in the region while announcing a closer economic and strategic partnership with Iran’s two arch enemies, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Israeli concerns regarding Iran’s strategy in the Middle East are relatively straight-forward and have always been since the beginning of the Iranian Revolution in 1979: Tehran is considered as a geopolitical adversary and maintaining Tel Aviv’s qualitative military edge is a priority.

As for the Saudis, they have been showing a new pattern of pragmatic engagement in their foreign policy which might create an opportunity for de-escalation in the region.

The recent high-level engagement with the Iraqi government and military in Baghdad and the hosting of the Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr in Riyadh for talks with Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman are all signs that the Saudis are eager to find a rapid resolution to the ruinous crisis in Yemen and beyond that to isolate Iran through diplomatic measures.

It goes without saying that each of these soft or hard measures and moves has its own complex set of domestic and external consequences, but as the Islamic Republic of Iran is concerned, the second term cabinet of President Rouhani is not in a position to forge a more pragmatic line in Iran’s policy towards the region, which is largely controlled by the Supreme Leader and Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. (IRGC).

Though the focus on continuity, stability, and diplomatic engagement, notably the nuclear agreement of 2015, is evident in the Rouhani’s choice of ministers like Zarif and Zangeneh for his second term cabinet, the Iranian government seems to face a real challenge coming from the hawks in Tehran.

Let us not forget that very recently on 20 August, in a speech in honour of World Mosque Day, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, stressed the importance of combating internal and external threats against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Soleimani defended Iran’s involvement in Iraq and Syria by underlining the fact that Iran does not “differentiate between Iran’s interests and Iraq’s interests”.

Add to this the recent intervention of President Rouhani on Iranian TV where he used a strong tone against the Trump administration which very recently imposed sanctions on six Iranian firms for their role in the development of a ballistic missile program.

“If America wants to go back to imposing sanctions,” declared Rouhani on Iranian state television, adding that – “Iran would certainly return in a short time – not a week or a month but within hours – to conditions more advanced than before the start of negotiations”.

As strange as it might appear, at this point, Iran is closely watching the US-North Korea stand-off, because Iran’s sense of how far it can go with its diplomacy and military power in the Middle East will largely be shaped by what happens on the other side of Asia.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen