Buffalo Sits Near Pretty Significant Fault Line
A magnitude 3.8 earthquake that hit the Buffalo area on Monday, February 6, 2023, has caught many people in Western New York and Southern Ontario by surprise. While it's not the first earthquake that has hit the 716 and surrounding areas, it's the largest that happened in a while and lots of people were not expecting it.
Believe it or not, earthquakes are relatively common in the area with the United States Geological Survey recording more than 70 happening in Western New York over the last 100 years, and more than 500 since the 1700s. The Northeast States Emergency Consortium has a pretty good historical accounting of earthquakes that have occurred in the northeastern section of the country.
The fact that so many earthquakes have happened in the region shouldn't be so surprising since there is a pretty major fault line that sits right in Western New York.
The Clarendon-Linden Fault System
The Clarendon-Linden fault system is classified as a major series of fault liens that are situated in Western New York and extends through Allegany, Genesee, Orleans, and Wyoming counties in Western New York. The central part of the fault system sits near Batavia, New York, and is largely responsible for most of the seismic activity we feel in the Buffalo area.
According to a seismic profile study published in 2002 by the USGS, there are a vast series of small faults that spread from the Canadian side of Lake Ontario, through the Niagara escarpment, and down towards the Pennsylvania border.
The fault lines trend from north to south and create what the USGS calls a strike-slip and dip-slip motion when it's active. Many geologists agree that, while the fault lines are significant in nature, the faults don't cause a major threat to the area in and of itself.
If you're interested in reading more about the Clarendon-Linden Fault System, the University at Buffalo has some good information about the fault lines. New York State also commissioned a study on the fault system and you can find that here.