Herefordshire: Is it an earthquake hotspot?

By Danielle Hayden
BBC News

  • Published
Earthquake genericImage source, Thinkstock
Image caption,
There have been five small earthquakes in Herefordshire this year so far

Earthquakes have the power to shake cities to the ground, yet in the UK about 200 a year rumble under our feet mostly unnoticed. Your Questions led us to investigate earthquakes in Herefordshire - where one expert thinks the county is a hotspot for these hidden tremors.

"Herefordshire experiences a lot of earthquakes compared to other areas," says David Galloway, seismologist at the British Geological Survey (BGS).

More than 100 have been recorded in the county in the last 40 years - and five small tremors have happened already this year, he says.

Hereford was named twice in the BGS list of the most significant British earthquakes - with magnitudes of 5.2 in 1863 and 5.3 in 1896.

The largest-known earthquake in the UK had a magnitude of 6.1 and happened in the North Sea on 7 June 1931.

Image source, Google
Image caption,
An earthquake reaching 3.6 magnitude began in Bromyard and was felt across Herefordshire on 26 October 2008

Although the majority of earthquakes go unobserved by those not in the know, one or two a month are felt and can cause alarm.

Mr Galloway says the most recent "widely felt" tremor, in Bromyard in 2008, had a magnitude of 3.6 and affected areas between Malvern and Worcester.

He says people described the quake as feeling like "a lorry crashing in to the side of their house" and more than a dozen people contacted the police.

One Malvern resident told the Telegraph: "I saw the wardrobe doors rattle and thought someone was trapped in it. It was terrifying."

"There has been a number of earthquakes in Herefordshire, some only detected by our BGS seismometers but some larger ones which were widely felt all over the region," Mr Galloway says.

"And also bear in mind that some other earthquakes have occurred out of the region but were felt in Herefordshire, for example the magnitude 5.1 Shropshire earthquake on 2 April 1990."

Since 1975, 108 earthquakes have been recorded in Herefordshire, but barely any hit headlines.

This is because they register as low on the seismograph, which measures the magnitude of the earthquake, from 1 for small to 10 for super intense.

This information is gathered from a network of more than 100 seismograph stations across the UK with the closest being in Michaelchurch, Herefordshire.

Image source, British Geological Survey
Image caption,
The seismograph station in Michaelchurch, Herefordshire measures the magnitude of earthquakes

"We don't really know why so we record so many here, as earthquakes in the UK are random," says Mr Galloway.

"The country is in the middle of [the Eurasian] plate, which is moving all the time, so it sometimes stresses certain areas.

"But it does seem that places such as Herefordshire, Wales and North West Scotland are areas particularly prone to them."

Image source, British Geological Survey
Image caption,
David Galloway explains earthquakes at the British Geological Survey open day

This story was inspired by Your Questions: "Has there ever been an earthquake in Hereford?"

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