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Warwick Tremor - An Expert Explains

The tremor that shocked Warwick and parts of the Midlands may have been the most powerful in the UK for a decade, but was little more than a blip when compared with worldwide quakes.

The shake was centred below Budbrooke, just west of the town when it struck about 5.30am on Saturday. It measured four on the Richter Scale.

Aftershocks were felt as far away as Solihull, Banbury, Peterborough, Leicestershire and across Warwickshire.

And while it was as nothing compared to pictures we seen on TV screens from around the world, an expert explains that quakes in Britain are far more common than you might think.

Jon Radley, keeper of geology for Warwickshire Museum, explained:

“The Warwick Earthquake of September 23 is the latest of many mild tremors to have affected central England during its long geological history.

“Geological maps and records held at Warwickshire Museum show that the area is criss-crossed with geological faults – fractures running through the rocks.

“Many of these indicate earlier earthquakes and disturbances, some dating back hundreds of millions of years. Landslides on steep hillsides, or even mining subsidence may have caused some of the most recent ones.

“We know that this particular ‘quake originated 13 kilometres down in the Earth’s crust, just to the west of Warwick. Here, a tiny amount of movement on an ancient fault caused shock waves to spread upwards and outwards through the rock layers causing the tremor.”

And the Warwick incident was caused by actions far from British, even European shores.

Mr Radley put it into a global perspective and explained what there is no need to panic. He said:

“Many British earthquakes result from pressures building up in the Earth’s crust, due to the process known as continental drift.

“As the African continent continues to shunt slowly northwards and the Atlantic Ocean continues to widen, Britain is effectively a ‘piggy in the middle’.

“Something has to give from time to time, and occasionally a small slip will occur along one of the many ancient faults, the main lines of weakness. It is worth remembering that these processes are taking place at an incredibly slow rate, perhaps just a few millimetres each year.

“Central England is well known in geological circles for it’s tranquil past so we have nothing to fear! Real earthquake zones such as parts of California sit astride huge active faults, moving at the rate of several centimetres a year.

“Old press cuttings and other documents preserved within Warwickshire Museum’s Geological Localities Record Centre confirm that local earthquakes are few and far between, so we can all rest assured of a quiet future.”


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CWN / Politics / Warwickshire County Council / 26 Sep 00

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