M=6.6 earthquake strikes Eastern Russia

By David Jacobson, Temblor

See earthquakes in Russia

In addition to active volcanism on the Kamchatka Peninsula, the region is also one the most seismically active places on earth. (Photo from: Pinterest)


At 5:09 p.m. local time on March 29, a M=6.6 earthquake struck Eastern Russia along the Kamchatka Peninsula. Fortunately, this region is sparsely populated and only 1 person registered feeling the quake on the USGS website. According to the USGS, the quake, which occurred at a depth of 22 km, resulted in severe shaking at the epicenter, and a tsunami warning was briefly issued. So far there are no reports of damage.

Much of the Kamchatka Peninsula sits along the Kuril-Kamchatka Trench, where the Pacific Plate subducts beneath the North American Plate. This arc extends for approximately 2,100 km from Northern Japan to the Aleutian Islands. In addition to large earthquakes, this subduction has formed numerous active volcanoes.

At the northern end of the trench, relatively close to the M=6.6 quake, subduction is impacted by the Aleutian Arc. Due to the curvature of the arc, and the relative plate motion, the westernmost Aleutians actually mark a transform boundary rather than an additional subduction zone. Because of this interaction, the Kuril-Kamchatka Arc is one of the most seismically active regions on earth, where earthquakes of almost any mechanism are possible. Today’s M=6.6 was nearly pure thrust in nature.

These Temblor maps show the location of today’s M=6.6 quake as well as the relative plate motion in the region. Because of the plate motion and subducting seamounts, this area is one of the most seismically active spots in the world. The bottom figure shows the Global Earthquake Activity Rate (GEAR) model, which suggests that despite the earthquake’s relatively large magnitude, it should not be considered surprising.


In addition to the varying plate motion, subduction is also impacted by the entrainment of the Meiji Seamount, the oldest seamount in the Hawaiian-Emperor Seamount Chain. This chain stretches for nearly 6,000 kilometers from the westernmost tip of the Aleutian Islands to Hawaii. Because these seamounts are more buoyant than the surrounding oceanic crust, they can indent the island arc, a phenomenon which has been noted around the world, including along the subduction zone offshore of Tokyo.

This Temblor map shows the location of today’s earthquake as well as the Aleutian Arc, Kuril-Kamchatka Trench, and Hawaiian-Emperor Seamount Chain. The chain of seamounts, which stretches for nearly 6,000 km, contributes to the indentation seen in the island arc in the north Pacific.


According to the Global Earthquake Activity Rate (GEAR) model, which uses global strain rates and past seismicity, an earthquake of M=6.5-6.75 is likely in your lifetime for this location. Therefore, while this earthquake was sizable, it should not come as a surprise.