A 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck near the Eastern Aleutian Islands prompted tsunami concerns for some of Alaska’s coastal communities, but no immediate reports of significant damage or injury.
A tsunami warning — later downgraded to an advisory before being canceled shortly before 1 a.m. on Sunday — was was in effect from 40 miles west of Homer to 80 miles northeast of Unalaska. Tsunami waves with an observed maximum height of 0.5 feet was measured at both King Cove and Sand Point at 12:18 a.m.
Initial reports from the United States Geological Survey indicate an earthquake with a 7.2 magnitude hit the island chain at 10:48 p.m. on July 15. The epicenter was located approximately 55 miles to the southwest of Sand Point in the Aleutian Islands, approximately 615 miles southwest of Anchorage. It was widely felt across the Aleutians, Alaska Peninsula and Cook Inlet, according to the Alaska Earthquake Center.
There have been an estimated eight aftershocks in the same area, the largest of which measured 5.0 in magnitude just three minutes after the initial earthquake.
In Kodiak, Alaska, sirens warned of a possible tsunami and sent people driving to shelters late at night, according to video posted to social media.
The U.S. National Weather Service sent a tsunami advisory saying the quake occurred at a depth of 13 miles (21 kilometers). The agency cancelled the advisory about an hour after the first alert.
The July 15 earthquake occurred within the M7.8 aftershock zone. While the M7.8 aftershock activity greatly diminished since its peak in the summer/fall of 2020, the Earthquake Center was still observing elevated levels of seismic activity within the M7.8 aftershock zone in 2023. So, the M7.2 earthquake can be recognized as a late aftershock of the M7.8 earthquake. Its source mechanism is similar to the Simeonof event and indicates fault rupture along the Aleutian megathrust fault. We expect that the M7.2 earthquake will generate its own aftershock sequence, similar to the other moderate-sized earthquakes in the region. So far, the largest aftershock, M5.7, occurred three minutes after the mainshock.
Another major earthquake, magnitude 8.2, occurred on July 29, 2021 NE of the Simeonof Earthquake epicenter. The M8.2 rupture propagated to the northeast, away from the M7.8 rupture zone.
The M7.2 July 15, 2023 earthquake is yet another major event within the span of 3 years that ruptured the subduction zone interface from the Shumagin Islands in the southwest to Kodiak Island in the northeast. The Shumagin Island region has been recognized as a seismic gap, a stretch where no major earthquakes had occurred recently, prior to these three large earthquakes. The recent sequence of events partially filled this gap.
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