MadSci Network: Earth Sciences

Re: My question is, will there ever be an earthquake or valcano in Vermont?

Date: Wed Sep 30 16:31:35 1998
Posted By: Robert Chesson, Other (pls. specify below), Working Geologist (Certified Professional Geologist), FEC
Area of science: Earth Sciences
ID: 906124029.Es

Will there ever be an earthquake or volcano in Vermont?

The entire eastern part of the United States (which includes the State of Vermont) is found in the middle of one large crustal plate (called the North American Plate) which is relatively stable, geologically speaking. The middle part of the North American Plate does not have any active volcanoes and it is unlikely that Vermont will experience any erupting volcanoes anytime in the near future.

For the same reason that Vermont does not have any volcanoes is also why Vermont does not have many active faults able to produce large destructive earthquakes. However, Vermont can and does have many small magnitude earthquakes that you cannot feel. The State of Vermont Geological Survey or a local university may have some information about these small earthquakes.

You may also be interested in knowing that granite is a type of rock that is made by the cooling and hardning of molten rock (magma) deep within the earth’s outer crust. The State of Vermont is called the “Granite State” because of all the granite that is found in your state. A lot of this rock has been quarried for building stone. When you see granite, you may be looking at the roots of an ancient volcano. I am not sure how old these granite rocks are, but they are probably about 400 million years old and these volcanoes would have been active when the Applachian Mountains were formed.

I have included some more information about volcanoes below. Because this information is about Plate Tectonics (also called continental drift) and can be complicated, you may wish to ask your teacher or local librianian about books explaining this theory.

Volcanoes are found on the earth in three specific types of areas. You may have heard of “continental drift” or the plate tectonics theory. Geologists have been able to observe that the earth’s surface is made up of several large crustal plates. These plates form a jigsaw puzzle which constantly jostle one another. This crustal plate movement can produce both earthquakes and volcanoes. Two types of volcanoes can be found at plate boundaries. One type is found with a plate boundary call “subduction zones”. Subduction zones are where one crustal plate runs into another plate and one of the plates rides over the other one. The other type of crustal plate boundary is where two plates pull away from each other and new crustal material (lava) is added.

These plate boundaries are called “spreading ridges”. The large number of volcanoes in the Andes Mountains in South America and the Cascade volcanoes in Oregon and Washington are examples of volcanoes found along subduction zones. The Island of Iceland was formed by and continues to have volcanoes because it is on a spreading ridge in the north Atlantic Ocean. Another type of volcanic activity has been observed to not be associated with plate boundaries. These are called “hot spots”. The Islands of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean and have been formed by hot spot volcanoes.

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