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Home* News and Stories → Earthquake in Storfjord

Earthquake in Storfjord

Many inhabitants of Longyearbyen woke up in the early night on 20 February, when an earthquake made houses shake noticeably at 03.46 am. Damage or injuries did not occur. The epicentre was in Storfjord near the southeastern coast of Spitsbergen, about 120 km away from Longyearbyen, near a geological fault that may have been re-activated due to stress caused by movements at the middle Atlantic ridge system that is dividing the bottom of the ocean into two different tectonic plates in the Fram Strait (between Spitsbergen and Greenland). The earthquake was recorded with 6.2 on the Richter scale – more than enough to cause damage if it had happened on land in a more densely populated area. The event is quite exceptional, as Spitsbergen is seismologically mostly quite calm, as opposed to Iceland, which is situated directly on top of the middle Atlantic ridge.

In March 2008, some minor cracks have been found at some buildings in Longyearbyen, which are believed to date back to the earthquake. 

The approximate position of the epicentre is marked with a red dot. Green symbols show the active settlements.
(© Karte Rolf Stange)

Earthquake in Storfjord

For more information, see: Norwegian Polar institute

last modification: 2014-07-01 · copyright: Rolf Stange