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New Jersey Earthquakes

History of Earthquakes in New Jersey

Since historic times New Jersey had occasional small earthquake, most of which have been located in the northern part of the state.  Since the first known earthquake epicenter in the state on November 30, 1783, a total of 98 felt earthquakes have been centered in New Jersey through 2016.  The strongest earthquake with an epicenter in the state was a magnitude 4.8 earthquake that took place on August 23, 1938 at 5:04 a.m.  This earthquake had an epicenter southeast of Trenton, and it was felt from Jersey City to northern Delaware.  Damage due to this event near its epicenter was confined to dishes and glassware that were broken when they were knocked from shelves by the earthquake shaking.  Furniture was also moved by the ground shaking.  In fact, this earthquake was one in a series of shocks that started on August 22 and continued to August 27.

Map of Earthquakes of the Northeastern US and Southeastern Canada 1975 to 2017

Some of the events approached the size of the largest shock.  On February 28, 1973, an earthquake of magnitude 3.9 was centered in the southwestern part of the state near the borders with Delaware and Pennsylvania.  The earthquake shaking was strongest in southwestern New Jersey, southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware.  There were reports of some minor cracks in plaster and brick masonry in homes in all three states. This earthquake was felt from southwest Connecticut to the Washington, D.C. area.  A magnitude 3.8 earthquake on January 30, 1979 had an epicenter near Freehold, NJ.  Objects were shaken from shelves and minor cracks were reported in masonry walls in a few towns near the epicenter.  This earthquake was felt throughout the greater New York City and Philadelphia areas.

Earthquakes Outside of New Jersey Having Notable State Impacts

In addition to the earthquakes from within the state, Massachusetts also has been strongly affected by a number of earthquakes that were centered outside of its state boundaries.  The June 1, 1638 (Julian date) earthquake, which is thought to have been centered north of Concord, NH and had an estimated magnitude of 6.5, was felt very strongly in Massachusetts.  People had trouble standing without hold on to something, although no damage was reported in Massachusetts due to this earthquake.  The February 5, 1663 (Gregorian date) earthquake, which was centered in Quebec and had an estimated magnitude of 7.5, damaged some chimneys in Roxbury, MA.  The December 20, 1940 and December 24, 1940 shocks, which were centered in the Ossipee Mountains of New Hampshire and each of which had an estimated magnitude of 5.6, were felt strongly in Massachusetts but caused no damage.  The magnitude 6.2 earthquake on March 1, 1925 with an epicenter at Charlevoix, Quebec was felt strongly enough in eastern Massachusetts that some people ran out of the buildings that they were in, although no damage in Massachusetts was confirmed due to the earthquake shaking.  The magnitude 6.2 earthquake of November 1, 1935 with an epicenter in western Quebec was felt noticeably in the western part of Massachusetts but caused no damage.  The same is true of the magnitude 5.9 earthquake of September 5, 1944 with an epicenter at Massena, NY.  The magnitude 5.8 and 5.5 earthquakes on January 9, 1982 and January 11, 1982, both centered in New Brunswick, the magnitude 5.9 earthquake on November 25, 1988 centered north of Quebec City, and the magnitude 5.8 earthquake on August 23, 2011 centered at Mineral, VA were all felt throughout Massachusetts but with no damage reported.

New Jersey Information and Links


Prepared in Consultation with Professor John E. Ebel PhD. Boston College, Weston Observatory