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The source of earthquakes on the East Coast, like today’s 5.9 temblor in eastern Virginia, can be difficult to pinpoint, unlike faults in well-studied areas of the U.S. where there are major fault lines, according to the US Geological Survey.

“Based on the data, to really be able to point out what has happened and what fault line was responsible it is definitely going to require more research. It can take several months to a year to discover the fault line,” said Rafael Abreu, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey.

“We have noticed, and it’s a particular characteristics of the eastern U.S. [earthquakes] tend to be felt more widely than an earthquake of the same size in California or Colorado. It’s an effect of the geology of the eastern U.S,” said Abreu.

Tuesday’s quake was unlike anything scientists would expect in this area, which has had earthquakes in the 2 to 3 range throughout recent history. “It takes just about everybody by surprise,” he added.


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