A rare 5.8 earthquake that rattled the eastern United States on Tuesday was felt over a wide area from Toronto, Canada down to Georgia due to the hard, brittle quality of the ground, experts said.
The quake that struck mid-afternoon near Richmond, Virginia was the strongest in the state since 1897, and shook the eastern seaboard for some 30 seconds, sparking a wave of panic among residents.
The outer rocky shell of the Earth, known as the lithosphere, is colder on the East Coast than in California, which is well known for experiencing frequent earthquakes.
So when something shakes, it is like hitting a bar of steel, it rings pretty well. Whereas on the West Coast, the rocks are higher temperature and it is more like hitting something quite a bit softer.
On the East Coast, you have this old, hard, cold crust that does a lovely job of transmitting the waves like a solid bell," so that an earthquake "can definitely be felt hundreds of miles away.
The US East Coast has plenty of fault lines, but they are ancient, and are inside a creaky plate that is under pressure from being jostled and pushed by other plates, experts said.
Why Quakes Travel Farther on East Coast
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