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The Ramapo Fault, spanning more than 300 kilometers in New Yorkmarker, New Jerseymarker, and Pennsylvaniamarker, is a system of faults between the Appalachian Mountainsmarker and Piedmont areas to the east. The best known fault zone in the region, it has primarily produced tiny earthquakes, with the occasional tremor.

Recently, public knowledge about the fault has increased, especially after the 1980s, when the fault's proximity to a large nuclear plant in New York was noticed.
The fault separates the New Jersey Highlands and Piedmont sectors.
The fault system has the potential to produce a major earthquake, despite its inactivity.

Background

By far the best known fault in the region, the Ramapo Fault has been blamed for several past earthquakes. In 1884, the fault line was incorrectly named the reason behind an earthquake in New York City. This was most likely because it was, at the time, the only mapped fault in New Jersey and New York. At the present, it is known that there are many more faults.

Geology

The fault system, part of a series of north-east striking, southeast-dipping faults, is probably inactive for the most part. Numerous 5 to 10 mile-long faults branch off the main fault line.

Probably of Precambrian age, the fault has seen six to seven major periods of seismic activity. The last period of heightened earthquake activity probably took place during the Triassic, 200 million years ago. During this time, the Ramapo fault, originally a thrust fault active during the creation of the Appalachian Mountainsmarker, was reactivated as the Atlantic Ocean was opening and the supercontinent of Pangaea was being torn apart. The fault became integrally involved in a period of intense rifting, slowly lowering the land to its east by more than nine kilometers to create the Newark Basin. Magma was able to seep through linear fractures along the fault during the late Triassic and early Jurassic, producing episodic flood basalts responsible for the creation of the Watchung Mountains.

Future threats

The Ramapo Fault not only serves as a threat to most of New Jersey, but New York City, as well. A 2008 study concluded that a magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake was destined to originate from the zone. This would almost definitely spawn mass fatalities and billions of dollars in damage. Studying around 400 earthquakes over the past 300 years, the study also found that there was an additional fault zone adjacent to the Ramapo Fault Zone.

References

  1. Earthquakes and the Ramapo Fault System in Southeastern New York State. Earth Institute News Archive, Columbia University, 2004. Accessed October 24, 2009.
  2. Schlische, Roy W. Geology of the Newark Rift Basin. Department of Geological Sciences, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ. Accessed October 24, 2009.
  3. Rance, Hugh. Historical Geology: The Present is the Key to the Past. 1996. See Pages 429-430. Available Online
  4. NYC Regional Geology, Mesozoic Basins. U.S. Geological Survey. Accessed October 25, 2009.



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