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Professional Paper 544–C

Hydrologic Effects of the Earthquake of March 27, 1964, Outside Alaska

By Robert C. Vorhis
with sections on Hydroseismograms from the Nunn-Bush Shoe Co. Well Wisconsin, By Elmer E. Rexin and Robert C. Vorhis and Alaska Earthquake Effects on Ground Water In Iowa, By R.W. Coble

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF 6.7 MB)Abstract

The Alaska earthquake of March 27, 1964, had widespread hydrologic effects throughout practically all of the United States. More than 1,450 water-level recorders, scattered throughout all the 50 States except Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island, registered the earthquake. Half of the water-level records were obtained from ground-water observation wells and half at surface-water gaging stations. The earthquake is also known to have registered on water-level recorders on wells in Canada, England, Denmark, Belgium, Egypt, Israel, Libya, Philippine Islands, South-West Africa, South Africa, and Northern Territory of Australia.

The Alaska earthquake is the first for which widespread surface-water effects are known. The effects were recorded at stations on flowing streams, rivers, reservoirs, lakes, and ponds. The 755 surface-water stations recording effects are spread through 38 States, but are most numerous in the south-central and southeastern States, especially in Florida and Louisiana. Most of the fluctuations recorded can be referred to more precisely as seismic seiches; however, a few stations recorded the quake as a minor change in stage. The largest recorded seiche outside Alaska was 1.83 feet on a reservoir in Michigan. The next largest was 1.45 feet on Lake Ouachita in Arkansas.

The largest fluctuation in a well was 23 feet registered by a pressure recorder near Belle Fourche, S. Dak. Fluctuations of more than 10 feet were reported from wells in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, and Pennsylvania. A 3.40-foot fluctuation was recorded in a well in Puerto Rico.

The Alaska earthquake was registered by about seven times as many water-level recorders as recorded the Hebgen Lake, Mont., earthquake of August 19, 1959.

First posted October 31, 2012
Revised August 21, 2013

For additional information:
Contact Information, Menlo Park, Calif.
   Office—Earthquake Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
345 Middlefield Road, MS 977
Menlo Park, CA 94025

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Suggested citation:

Vorhis , R.C., 1966, Hydrologic effects of the earthquake of March 27,1964, outside Alaska with sections on Hydroseismograms from the Nunn-Bush Shoe Co. well Wisconsin, by Rexin, E.E., and Vorhis, R.C., and Alaska earthquake effects on ground water In Iowa, by Coble, R.W.: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 544–C, 54 p.,




Hydroseismic Data

Hydroseismograpms from the Nunn-Bush Shoe Co. Well, Wisconsin

Geographic Distribution of Hydrologic Effects

Hydroseisms from Aftershocks


References Cited

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