July 13, 2020

MDI stations to track quake aftershocks

BAR HARBOR – Recent earthquakes on Mount Desert Island have prompted scientists from Columbia University in New York to take a closer look at what’s going on.

Representatives from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia recently installed four temporary earthquake monitoring stations along the Hancock County coast, designed to track aftershocks too small for residents to feel.

Units were installed at four points along Frenchman Bay: Otter Creek and Long Lake on MDI, the Schoodic Point section of Acadia National Park, and Lamoine.

“This is an excellent opportunity to record small aftershocks that can better define where and how the rocks moved at depth,” said Robert Marvinney, a geologist with the Maine Geological Survey.

The latest earthquake on MDI, which occurred on Oct. 2, also has been upgraded from a 3.9 temblor to a 4.2, according to data from the Weston Observatory at Boston College.

That quake caused rocks to tumble from the mountains of Acadia National Park and closed part of the Park Loop Road for repairs.

The earthquakes started on Sept. 22 with a 3.5 magnitude event felt mostly in Bar Harbor. Smaller aftershocks were recorded six days later, leading up to the Oct. 2 quake.

No additional aftershocks have been reported since Oct. 2, but the Columbia scientists will monitor seismic activity regularly to track what may not be felt on the surface.

The monitoring stations will be in place for about a month. While the data will be used for Columbia’s own research, Marvinney said the scientists will share the information with geologists in Maine

“They are going to let us know what’s going on,” he said. “We don’t have seismologists in the state, so we have to rely on Boston College and Columbia.”

Won-Young Kim, who is leading the research effort at Columbia, could not be reached Monday for comment.

Even with all the research, there are no credible studies that can predict when, where and how large the next earthquake in Maine might be, Marvinney said.

While Maine historically has always been hit with small earthquakes, none has caused significant damage.

The largest earthquake reported in Maine was a 5.1 magnitude shock reported in 1904 in the Washington County town of Eastport.

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