Energy, Mines and Resources

Yukon Geological Survey - Home

Surficial Geology

| About YGS | YGS News | Site Map |

Earthquakes

| Landslides | Glaciers | Earthquakes |

Distribution of historical earthquakes in southwestern Yukon and locations of major faults (dashed black lines).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distribution of historical earthquakes in southwestern Yukon and locations of major faults (dashed black lines).

 

Earthquakes may be felt throughout Yukon, but their epicenters are concentrated in:

  • southwest Yukon along the fault systems of:
    • Denali,
    • Duke River,
    • Border Ranges, and,
    • Fairweather fault systems.
  • in northeast Yukon within the:
    • Richardson mountain range; and,
    • Wernecke mountain range.

Earthquake activity in Yukon is usually caused by tectonic plate movement off the coast of southeast Alaska. The Pacific plate moves northwest at 5 cm/year relative to the North American plate. As the plates move past each other, ground movements, or earthquakes, are triggered along the faults.

Yukon’s historical earthquake record extends back to 1897. Records show that a few hundred earthquakes occur per year, although most are small events (less than magnitude 4) that are rarely felt by people. Moderate to large earthquakes (greater than magnitude 5) are infrequent, occurring once every few years on average. The largest earthquake ever recorded was magnitude 8 and occurred in 1899 near the very southwest corner of Yukon.

In 2017, three significant earthquakes were felt by many Yukoners:

  • on May 1, a M6.2 earthquake occurred at 5:31 a.m.;
  • followed by a M6.3 earthquake at 7:22 a.m.; and,
  • on September 16, a M. 5.1 event occurred in the same vicinity at 4:38 p.m..

These earthquakes occurred near Kelsall Lake in the Haines Pass area, 15 km south of the Yukon/BC border and 130 km southwest of Whitehorse, near where the Denali and Duke River faults meet.

Earthquakes can trigger a variety of natural hazards in Yukon, including:

  • ground vibrations;
  • landslides and avalanches;
  • liquefaction of water-saturated sediments; and,
  • surface rupture.

These phenomena have the potential to cause damage to buildings and infrastructure.

The Yukon Geological Survey investigates seismic activity and hazards throughout Yukon, using:

  • long term seismometers;
  • fault investigations;
  • reconnaissance of earthquake ground disturbances; and,
  • partnerships with various seismic research agencies.

This work improves our understanding of modern tectonic activity in Yukon and our ability to assess and manage related hazards.

Remember that an earthquake could happen anywhere in Yukon at any time! Take the time to secure objects that could fall and cause injury in your home and workplace.

If you feel an earthquake:

  • Drop where you are, onto your hands and knees.
  • Cover your head and neck with one arm and hand and crawl under a sturdy table of desk if one is nearby.
  • Hold on until the shaking stops.


 

Recent Earthquakes:
o Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) – Earthquakes Canada
o United States Geological Survey (USGS)
o United States Geological Survey (USGS) - Latest Earthquakes Map

Earthquake Preparedness:
GSC - Earthquakes Canada
USGS
Yukon Emergency Measures Organization (EMO)
Great Yukon ShakeOut Drill

Educational Resources:
o GSC – General Earthquake Information
o USGS – Earthquake Hazards Program
Simplified seismic hazard map of Canada

Research Partnerships:
USArray

Further information:
What caused the May 1, 2017 earthquakes?
Historical Yukon earthquakes GIS data
Structure and kinematic evolution of the Duke River fault (Cobbett et al., 2017)
Eastern Denali Fault surface trace map (Bender & Hauessler, 2017, USGS)
Neotectonics of interior Alaska and the late Quaternary slip rate along the Denali fault system (Haeussler et al., 2017)
Overview of neotectonics investigations in SW Yukon – Canadian Quaternary Association (CANQUA) 2009 talk [3.4 MB ]
Denali Fault paleoseismicity at Duke River – American Geophysical Union (AGU) 2009 poster [6.1 MB ]

For more information about Earthquakes in the Yukon contact Panya Lipovsky.