AUSTIN (KXAN) — When you think of earthquakes in the U.S., Texas is probably not the first state that comes to mind.
But data from the U.S. Geological Survey shows more than 3,000 earthquakes have been reported in the Lone Star State since 1900.
The vast majority of those are small quakes, but almost 70 have been magnitude 4 or greater. Five earthquakes have been greater than magnitude 5.
What’s the strongest earthquake ever recorded in Texas?
Texas’ strongest earthquake in history struck around 5:40 a.m. on Aug. 16, 1931. The magnitude 5.8 earthquake was centered about 7.5 miles southwest of Valentine, a small community in Presidio County, between El Paso and Big Bend.
Here’s how the USGS describes the earthquake in its impact summary:
“The most severe damage was reported at Valentine, where all buildings except wood-frame houses were damaged severely and all brick chimneys toppled or were damaged. The schoolhouse, which consisted of one section of concrete blocks and another section of bricks, was damaged so badly that it had to be rebuilt. Small cracks formed in the schoolhouse yard.”
“Some walls collapsed in adobe buildings, and ceilings and partitions were damaged in wood-frame structures. Some concrete and brick walls were cracked severely. One low wall, reinforced with concrete, was broken and thrown down. Tombstones in a local cemetery were rotated. Damage to property was reported from widely scattered points in Brewster, Jeff Davis, Culberson, and Presidio Counties.”U.S. Geological Survey
Where have earthquakes occurred in Texas?
With data from the USGS, KXAN has mapped the location of every earthquake recorded in Texas since 1900 with a magnitude 2.5 or higher.
Earthquakes have been recorded in almost every part of the state, but there are clusters where they are more common, particularly in West Texas. The region has the most fault zones in the state and is also known for fracking, a process in which liquid is injected into the ground to force oil and gas to the surface.
Are earthquakes becoming more common in Texas?
According to the USGS, fracking, mining and building dams have all been attributed to induced seismicity, where an earthquake is caused by human activity. In the south-central United States, a significant number of recent earthquakes are thought to be caused by humans.
The chart below shows the cumulative total number of earthquakes reported in Texas since 1900. The total has grown exponentially over the past few years.
Data from the USGS shows 78% of all earthquakes in Texas with a magnitude 2.5 or greater have occurred just since the start of 2020.