Florida sees hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes. What about earthquakes?


From New Hampshire to New Zealand, multiple earthquakes have rocked the world in the last 48 hours.

The sudden release of energy in the Earth’s lithosphere creates seismic waves that cause the Earth’s surface to tremor. Multiple regions around the world experience this natural phenomenon frequently.

But what is the probability that an earthquake will hit Florida, a state that is no stranger to experiencing natural disasters?

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Can Florida have earthquakes?

Despite not having much of an impact on history, earthquakes have been recorded in Florida since 1879.

According to experts, earthquakes in Florida are extremely rare as the state is nowhere near the tectonic plate boundaries. The closest fault line to Florida runs through the Caribbean Sea, just north of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and south of Cuba into Guatemala.

However, the Sunshine State is not entirely free from feeling some sort of earthquake from time to time, they just aren’t that strong.

When was the last Florida earthquake?

In September 2020, the United States Geological Survey recorded a magnitude 3.8 earthquake right on the Florida/Alabama line in far north Santa Rosa County.

It was the first quake felt in the area since a series of tremors rocked the area the previous year, according to data from the US Geological Survey. Nine quakes struck near the Florida-Alabama line in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties in the north end between March 7 and April 14, 2019.

What was the largest earthquake in the state?

Technically, there are two answers depending on whether you count earthquakes within the Gulf of Mexico or only count those that occur on the actual peninsula.

In 1879, the largest recorded earthquake in Florida measured a magnitude 4.4 on the border of Putnam and Marion County in north central Florida. This is the only earthquake recorded on the peninsula in the USGS database.

However, a larger 6.0 earthquake from a depth of 6.2 miles in the Gulf of Mexico struck southwestern Florida in 2006. It was Cape Coral’s first and reportedly shook some of the tallest buildings on the Cape .

How does Florida compare to other states?

When it comes to the number of earthquakes, Florida joins North Dakota as the state with the fewest earthquakes per year.

Looking at the top of the charts, the Insurance Information Institute shows that Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada and Washington occupy the top five states with the highest number of earthquakes. Alaska alone accounts for 57% of all earthquakes in the United States due to its location along the Pacific “Ring of Fire” and the way it connects the Pacific and North American plates.

Where are the worst earthquakes in history?

Experts use seismographic networks to measure earthquakes by their magnitude, energy release, and intensity. Throughout the years, here are the worst recorded earthquakes in history:

  • The 2012 Indian Ocean earthquakes – 8.6
  • Assam-Tibet earthquake (1950) – 8.6
  • Rat Islands earthquake (1965) – 8.7
  • Ecuador-Colombia earthquake (1906) – 8.8
  • Maule earthquake (Chile) (2010) – 8.8
  • Kamchatka, Russia earthquake (1952) – 9.0
  • Tōhoku Earthquake (2011) – 9.1
  • Sumatra earthquake (2004) – 9.1
  • Great Alaskan Earthquake (1964) – 9.2
  • Valdivia earthquake (1960) – 9.5