The British Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 2.6 Earthquake at a depth of 10 km, beneath the Irish Sea roughly 30 km off the coast of Lancashire, slightly after 7.35 am British Summertime on Friday 31 August 2013. This is a moderately large quake by British standards, though there was no danger of it causing any damage or injuries this far offshore. It was felt in the Clevelys area.
The approximate location of the 31 August 2013 Irish Sea Earthquake. Google Maps.
Earthquakes become more common as you travel north and west in Great Britain, with the west coast of Scotland being the most quake-prone part of the island and the northwest of Wales being more prone to quakes than the rest of Wales or most of England.
The precise cause of Earthquakes in the UK can be hard to determine; the country is not close to any obvious single cause of such activity such as a plate margin, but is subject to tectonic pressures from several different sources, with most quakes probably being the result of the interplay between these forces.
Britain is being pushed to the east by the expansion of the Atlantic Ocean and to the north by the impact of Africa into Europe from the south. It is also affected by lesser areas of tectonic spreading beneath the North Sea, Rhine Valley and Bay of Biscay. Finally the country is subject to glacial rebound; until about 10 000 years ago much of the north of the country was covered by a thick layer of glacial ice (this is believed to have been thickest on the west coast of Scotland), pushing the rocks of the British lithosphere down into the underlying mantle. This ice is now gone, and the rocks are springing (slowly) back into their original position, causing the occasional Earthquake in the process.
Witness accounts of Earthquakes can help geologists to understand these events, and the structures that cause them. If you felt this quake, or were in the area but did not (which is also useful information) then you can report it to the British Geological Survey here.
See also Earthquakes off the Lancashire coast, Magnitude 2.1 Earthquake in Cheshire, England, Earthquake in Cumbria, Earthquake felt across Cumbria and Second Earthquake beneath Cheshire.
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