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Earthquakes in the UK

Instrumental (red) and historical (yellow) earthquakes in the British Isles from the BGS earthquake catalogue (Musson, 1996). Earthquake symbols are scaled by magnitude. CLICK FOR A LARGER VERSION

Where?

Most earthquakes occur on the western side of the British mainland. Earthquakes are almost completely absent from eastern Scotland and north east England. Similarly, Ireland is almost completely free of earthquakes.

The Biggest

The largest known British earthquake occurred near the Dogger Bank in 1931, with a magnitude of 6.1. The most damaging UK earthquake was in the Colchester area in 1884. Some 1200 buildings needed repairs, chimneys collapsed and walls were cracked.

Why?

Although Britain is far from any plate boundaries we are still being squeezed by motion of the Earth's tectonic plates. Northern Britain is also still being uplifted due to the melting of the ice sheets that covered many parts of Britain thousands of years ago. This deformation results in occasional earthquakes.