Abstract

This paper presents a new and comprehensive analysis of the magnitude of the 1663 Charlevoix, Quebec, earthquake. Based on a modified Mercalli intensity scale (MMI) of about VI from reports of damage to chimneys and a masonry wall in Roxbury and Boston, Massachusetts, the best estimate of the moment magnitude of this earthquake is M 7.3 to 7.9 from MMI attenuation relations. Using ground-motion attenuation relations and the threshold for chimney and masonry damage from fragility curves for seventeenth- and eighteenth-century dwellings in Boston, the magnitude of the 1663 earthquake is at least M 6.9 if the damage occurred on very soft soil conditions and is M 7.3 to M 7.7 if the damage took place on firm soil or bedrock. Both the best estimate of a length of 73 km for the most active section of the Charlevoix Seismic Zone and an estimated fault area of 73 km×25 km for the 1663 earthquake are consistent with an earthquake of M 7.3 to 7.6 based on scaling relationships. Also, in the 1811–1812 New Madrid earthquake sequence only the 7 February 1812 shock, the largest of the sequence, caused chimney damage beyond about 600 km. The 7 February New Madrid event is thought to have taken place on the Reelfoot fault, for which the length of the recent earthquake activity and of the suspected 1812 rupture is less than that of the active seismicity zone at Charlevoix. These observations suggest that the 1663 Charlevoix earthquake was approximately comparable in magnitude to or even larger than the largest of the 1811–1812 New Madrid earthquakes and therefore was at least M 6.8. When put together, the several lines of analysis in this study indicate that the best estimate of the size of the 1663 earthquake is M 7.5±0.45.

You do not currently have access to this article.