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USGS reports quake near Wisconsin city plagued by booming sounds

People turn out to get their questions answered at a meeting with city officials about the mysterious booming and rumbling in Clintonville, Wis., Wednesday, March 21, 2012.

A minor earthquake occurred this week near the eastern Wisconsin city where researchers have been investigating a series of unexplained booming sounds, federal geologists said Thursday.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the 1.5-magnitude earthquake struck Tuesday just after midnight in Clintonville, a town of about 4,600 people about 40 miles west of Green Bay.

Geophysicist Paul Caruso told The Associated Press that loud booming noises have been known to accompany earthquakes. It’s possible the mysterious sounds that town officials have been investigating are linked to the quake, he said.

Earthquakes can generate seismic energy that moves through rock at thousands of miles per hour, producing a sonic boom when the waves come to the surface, Caruso said.

“To be honest, I’m skeptical that there’d be a sound report associated with such a small earthquake, but it’s possible,” he said.

Those reservations didn’t stop Clintonville City Administrator Lisa Kuss from declaring “the mystery is solved” at a news conference Thursday evening.

She said USGS representatives described the event as a swarm of several small earthquakes in a very short time.

“In other places in the United States, a 1.5 earthquake would not be felt,” she said. “But the type of rock Wisconsin has transmits seismic energy very well.”

The U.S. Geological Survey says earthquakes with magnitude of 2.0 or less aren’t commonly felt by people and are generally recorded only on local seismographs. Caruso said the Tuesday earthquake was discovered after people reported feeling something, and geologists pored through their data to determine that an earthquake did indeed strike.

Local residents have reported late-night disturbances since Sunday, including a shaking ground and loud booms that sound like thunder or fireworks.

City officials investigated and ruled out a number of human-related explanations, such as construction, traffic, military exercises and underground work.

Clintonville resident Jordan Pfeiler, 21, said she doubted an earthquake caused the noises. She said the booms she experienced were in a series over the course of several hours and not continuous as she might have expected if they were caused by an earthquake.

Still, she said, “It’s a little scary knowing Clintonville could even have earthquakes.”

Steve Dutch, a geologist at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, said a 1.5 magnitude earthquake produces the energy equivalent of 100 pounds of explosives and could produce loud sounds.

…(Washington Post)

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March 23, 2012 - Posted by | Seismic | , , , , , , , ,

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