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Seismic event in southern Alberta: could it be an earthquake?

Earthquakes are generally a natural disaster we don’t have to think about in Alberta, but a Cardston man’s curiosity led to discovery of recent activity in southern Alberta.

“I thought I’d zoom in and see what was going on,” said Vernon J. Chiefmoon, who made the discovery. “I noticed in the last week we’ve had four earthquakes in southern Alberta.”

The United States Geological Survey listed the activity at between 2.4 and 2.7 magnitude, beginning on October 27 and ending on November 1.

A 7.7-magnitude earthquake struck British Columbia’s north-central coast late on the 27th, but the first tremor in Alberta registered earlier that day. Experts say there is a slim chance that ‘quake had any effect on what happened almost 2,000 kilometres away.

“Between the earthquake off the BC coast and Cardston, there are any number of formations, as well as the rocky mountains,” said Darin Barter, a spokesperson for the Enercy Resources Conservation Board. “It’s unlikely, but possible.”

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The Alberta Geological Survey said it was more likely industrial activity, rather than seismic. Staff there are looking into whether hydraulic fracturing or mining activity may have caused the readings.

Chiefmoon wonders if the level of activity in our region could have shook southern Albertans.

“We’re accustomed to the high winds, so if you feel the ground shaking, you’d think it’s just the wind,” said Chiefmoon.

“It’s pretty unlikely these events would have been felt at the surface,” said Barter. “If anything, it would have been close to a rumble under your feet, like a truck driving by.”

Monitoring the site has been Chiefmoon’s hobby for awhile now, but to his eye, activity around these parts is sporadic.

“One every one-to-two years, maybe, and very small,” he said.

“Not in terms of a cluster of four that we’ve had lately.”

Provincial experts say activity at the magnitude registered in southern Alberta would not cause any surface damage or water well issues.