Massive Earthquakes in New Zealand and Alaska May be 'Connected'

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By Reissa Su | June 25, 2014 7:02 PM EST

A scientist working with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said the massive quakes that struck Alaska and the New Zealand coast may have a connection. According to David Oppenheimer, there are several times in a year that earthquakes can strike within minutes of each other.

REUTERS/Bernardo Montoya
People stand on a street after evacuating a building following an earthquake in Mexico City April 18, 2014. REUTERS/Bernardo Montoya

On June 23, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake occurred off the New Zealand coast a few minutes after noon at Pacific Time. Meanwhile, a magnitude 7.9 quake struck the coast off Aleutian Islands before 2 pm Pacific Time.

The 6.9 earthquake hit near Raoul Island, a remote area in the Kermadec Islands chain of New Zealand. The epicenter is approximately 800 to 1,000 kilometers northeast of New Zealand's North Island. The initial earthquake was followed by another jolt with a 6.3 magnitude. Another quake struck 45 minutes later with a 6.2 magnitude.No damage was reported by New Zealand authorities.

In a CBS report, Oppenheimer suggested it was possible that the quake in New Zealand caused the Alaska earthquake. He said the timing can be attributed to surface waves. He explained these were the waves that travel around the circumference of the earth and arrived at about the time the earthquake struck Alaska.

But Oppenheimer said more studies are needed to validate his theory. He also said the earthquake in Alaska was bound to happen if the quake in New Zealand did not happen. Reports said the Aleutian Islands are prone to seismic activity.  Historical records revealed that magnitude 7.7 or higher earthquakes have occurred at least five times since 1906 within 250 miles from the epicenter of the June 23 earthquake.

The possibility of a magnitude 9 earthquake happening in the Pacific Ocean is being studied as GNS Science will begin placing seismometers or quake warning devices on New Zealand's most threatening faults. The new earthquake devices were installed under the ocean on the Hikurangi Subduction Zone. According to GNS Science, seismologists believe the area starting 25 kilometres east of Gisborne is where the Pacific tectonic plate is forced to move below the Australian plate.  The activity could be capable of causing a massive magnitude 9 earthquake similar to the one that struck Japan in 2011. 

Dr Bill Fry, a GNS seismologist, said a powerful earthquake in GIsborne would be felt by much of New Zealand, including Wellington. A magnitude 9 earthquake would cause a tsunami that would reach most of the country.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Bernardo Montoya / )
People stand on a street after evacuating a building following an earthquake in Mexico City April 18, 2014. REUTERS/Bernardo Montoya
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