Editor's Note: This article was written in response to a reader-submitted question. To submit a question to our newsroom, see Open Source.
ASHLAND -- Yes, Ashland County has experienced earthquakes, but none of any significant magnitude in recent years.
Ashland Source's Waylon O'Donnell recently investigated the history of local earthquakes, after a reader used our Open Source platform to ask, "Has Ashland County ever had an earthquake?"
The last earthquake to be felt in Ashland County was a 3.0 magnitude event that hit Lodi more than nine years ago, according to an online tool called Earthquake Track. It could be felt as close as one mile east of the Ashland County Airport near County Road 553.
The earthquake in Lodi happened at 11:35 a.m. Sunday, June 5, 2011.
Ninety people reported feeling the earthquake, Earthquake Track said. Earthquakes of this magnitude may be felt most noticeably by people who are indoors, particularly those on upper floors inside buildings, but they aren't often recognized as earthquakes.
The online tool did not report any earthquake that's happened specifically in Ashland County. However, more than 22 years ago, a 2.7 magnitude earthquake hit New London, which is just north of Ashland County in Huron County.
The New London earthquake measured 2.7 in magnitude and happened at 9:55 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24, 1998. It was reviewed by a seismologist, but no reports were recorded by the public, according to Earthquake Track.
Earthquakes are natural disasters that affect certain areas of the world more frequently than others. These hotspot locations are determined based on the positioning of the Earth's tectonic plates. When tectonic plates shift and their edges rub against each other, pressure is released resulting in seismic activity.
For example, California sits on the boundary between the North American Plate and the Pacific Plate, which is why earthquakes in California are more common than in Ohio.
However, Ohio has encountered a fair share of seismic events. Earthquake Track reports the most recent was a 4.0 magnitude quake near Eastlake, Ohio about a year ago. The Eastlake quake could be felt as far as Orange Township in Delaware County.
Mark Panning, seismologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, California, says that although states like Ohio do not reside near a tectonic boundary, seismic events can still materialize.
“Ohio and Indiana are sitting in the middle of the plate. They get very few earthquakes. It’s not zero though," Panning said. "There are weak zones in the middle of plates where events happen. These events can happen away from plate boundaries, but they are rarer and harder to predict.”
Because seismic activity is scarce in these regions, the ground is not as broken up as in areas near plate boundaries. Therefore, the same magnitude earthquake is going to be more broadly felt near the East Coast than on the West Coast.
Even though tremors are a common field of study for seismologists on Earth, Panning spends his days researching seismic activity on Mars.
“We’ve got a seismometer operating on Mars right now," Panning said.
He is a project scientist for the InSight mission, which landed in 2018.
"Over the course of two and a half months, we very carefully put out the seismometer, leveled it, and covered it up with a windshield, and it’s been operating on Mars and sending back data since then.”
Otherworldly quakes have long been an interest for NASA scientists. The Apollo missions placed nuclear-powered seismometers on the moon and measured lunar seismic activity until 1977.
Plate tectonics, however, are unique to Earth. Other rocky planets such as Venus, Mars and Mercury have movement beneath their mantle due to convection, which occurs when the deep parts of planets become hot and expand.
“There is no evidence for plate tectonics on Mars," Panning said. "We do have evidence of both Moon quakes and Mars quakes.
"We know they happen. It is just a different driving force. Instead of all the motion being focused on the edges of plates, we have less activity because we are just seeing the effect of the long-term cooling of a planet," he said.
There’s also evidence that volcanos have erupted on Mars throughout its history, he noted.
According to Panning, seismology is the best way to observe the complex interior of a planet. He said the larger quakes on Mars are likely associated with whatever force is driving the planet's volcanism.
Nonetheless, seismic activity on Mars is much more rare than on Earth. In fact, Panning affirmed that quakes occur more frequently in Ohio than on Mars, but not by much.
“I have plots that show the number of quakes in the eastern United States versus the number of quakes on Mars," said Panning. "They do occur more on the intraplate areas on Earth, but not a huge amount more.
"Of course, there are a lot more events that happen along plate boundaries on earth, so if you sum up the total number of quakes on Earth and compare it to the total number of quakes on Mars, there is a big difference.”
Even still, Ohioans should not rush to their insurance agency to purchase earthquake coverage anytime soon. According to Panning, individuals who live in Ohio should only consider investing in earthquake insurance if it was offered for an acceptable price.
“(Earthquakes) are not very likely to happen, so your risk is pretty low in Ohio in terms of losing value on your house because of earthquakes," Panning said. "You’d only want to do earthquake insurance if it was very, very, very cheap.”