Leighton Buzzard has experienced four tremors in two weeks, and many people have been questioning exactly why this local town is at the centre of all the action.
MKFM reached out to experts at The Open University to discover exactly why, and PhD researcher Stacy Phillips explains more...
Even with everything that has happened in 2020, it may feel bizarre that Leighton Buzzard has had four earthquakes in two weeks. But actually, the UK experiences between 200 and 300 earthquakes every year, according to the British Geological Survey, with only 20 to 30 a year actually being felt by people.
Earthquakes happen when parts of the Earth’s crust, the solid part that we live on, suddenly moves along cracks or faults within the Earth. Stress can build up along these faults as parts of the crust gets snagged on one another. This stress is then released as an earthquake, causing seismic waves to move through the earth, causing the ground to shake.
Major earthquakes tend to happen at the edge of tectonic plates, where large-scale slabs of rock are moving past one another, such as around the edge of the Pacific Ocean, which includes the famous San Andreas Fault in California. The UK however isn’t near one of these tectonically active plate boundaries, so not as much stress builds up here. There are still lots of ancient faults that criss-cross the UK though.
When earthquakes do happen in the UK they tend to be small and very localised. Movement of the crust here is often due to the slow uplift of the land following the melting of the ice sheets that covered much of the UK thousands of years ago and weighed the crust down.
The first and strongest earthquake in Leighton Buzzard that happened on 8 September has been followed by several smaller earthquakes, all coming from a similar 10km depth. It is extremely hard to predict whether or not there will be any more earthquakes, but as less energy is released each time, it is likely that we simply won’t be able to feel them.