• Notable seismic events have happened in Arizona.
  • Arizona has had over 1800 quakes of magnitudes up to 4.6.
  • The Arizona earthquake of 1887.

Tectonic Shifts in Arizona

If you've ever lived in California, you might be surprised to learn Arizona has earthquakes.

Earthquakes can happen in Arizona

Most of the tectonic shifts in Arizona are pretty small in magnitude, especially when compared to other locations around the world. There are times when they get our attention. In case you're wondering, EarthquakeTrack.com can give you an idea of how often Arizona is affected by temblors.

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More than 1800 Magnitude 4.6 Quakes in Arizona

It doesn't happen often, but believe it or not, Arizona has a history of earth movement.

Arizona has experienced over 1800 quakes of magnitudes up to 4.6 since 2023. Typically, you won't feel these earthquakes. There was one time when residents in Arizona couldn't deny the earth shifting under their feet.

The Historic Arizona Quake

On May 3, 1887, a powerful earthquake shook the ground in southern Arizona. The quake tipped the meter at a whopping 7.6 magnitude and was one of the largest ever recorded in the American West.

Earthquakes can happen in Arizona
Seismic events can happen in Arizona. // Canva

According to SouthernArizonaGuide.com, the quake caused widespread damage and killed 51 people as far away as Bavispe, Sonora, Mexico.

The earthquake was felt across the newly incorporated Cochise County and even into Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

A Town Feels the Effects of the Earthquake: How Bisbee Fared

In the young mining town of Bisbee, the quake caused rockfalls, landslides, and ground fissures. Buildings were impaired, and those made of adobe took a lot of damage, even crushing some residents trapped inside.

Earthquakes can happen in Arizona
Many adobe buildings collapsed or caved in. // Canva

The earthquake was caused by the rupture of three normal faults along the western edge of the Sierra Madre Occidental plateau. The total length of the rupture was about 62 miles long. The Arizona Geological Survey at the University of Arizona explains:

The quake triggered a long series of aftershocks that lasted for decades.

Earthquakes can happen in Arizona
The young mining town of Bisbee, Arizona, was hit hard by the quake. // Canva

The 1887 earthquake was a rare event. The devastation revealed the potential for seismic events throughout the area. While earthquakes are rare in Arizona, the chances of an earthquake are not zero.

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