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Why have earthquakes been hitting in the Carolinas?

A map displaying the epicenter of a western North Carolina earthquake.
NC Department of Environmental Quality
Here's a picture of historical seismic activities in the Carolinas.

North Carolina experienced its second earthquake of at least 2.0 magnitude in a week's time last Wednesday. The most recent hit in Catawba County northwest of Charlotte.

There has been a spate of earthquakes that have hit the Carolinas recently. Several have hit South Carolina, especially around the Elgin area near Columbia. Experts say these tremors and aftershocks are not abnormal. They can be a result of Earth working to progressively remove stress and could last for months.

The earthquakes have not been huge, but the Carolinas have experienced larger quakes before. That includes a 5.1 magnitude event near Sparta, North Carolina, in August 2020. Even that is small compared to a 7.3 magnitude earthquake that hit Charleston in 1886, killing around 100 people and destroying thousands of buildings.

We'll discuss where these earthquakes are occurring, why the Carolinas have been feeling more lately and how these compare to larger earthquakes from the past.


Andy R. Bobyarchick, geologist, associate professor of earth sciences at the Department of Geography & Earth Sciences at UNC Charlotte

Anji Shah, research geophysicist at the USGS Geology, Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center

Kenneth Taylor, state geologist of North Carolina

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Gabe Altieri is a Senior Producer for Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Prior to joining WFAE in 2022, he worked for WSKG Public Media in Binghamton, New York.