The people of Inishowen will have a lot more things to worry about than earthquakes now or in the coming years.
That is the view of University of Ulster geophysicist and earthquake expert, Professor John McCloskey, who was responding to the news that a minor earthquake was felt in parts of north Donegal in the early hours of yesterday morning.
According to local TD, Joe McHugh, many homes felt the vibrations, stating the earthquake tremors were “a surreal experience” for families in Buncrana, Letterkenny, Carrigart and elsewhere.
He said he had also received confirmation from the National Emergency Coordinating Centre that the State’s Crisis Response Unit was actively responding to the incident.
It was stated a number of families reported ‘slight rumblings’ while others reported farm animals had been frightened.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ yesterday Professor McCloskey, who lives in Inishowen, said the 2.2 magnitude earthquake was not a predictor of another seismic event.
“We do get a number of small earthquakes from time to time. About 20 years ago there was a 2.5 quake at Malin Head; it broke a few cups. A couple of years back there was one under Inch Island. We get them occasionally. If they are under a reading of 2 we don’t feel them.”
Professor McCloskey went on: “I have done a rough calculation this morning off the top of my head and I would reckon our chances of getting a ‘5’ quake - one that would knock down buildings - would be one in a thousand. So there are a lot of things that people in Inishowen need to worry about a lot more than when the next earthquake is due.”
Putting the quake into a bit of a historical context, Professor McCloskey said during the ice age there was a coating of ice over three kilometres deep covering Donegal. This thick coating melted relatively rapidly over a couple of centuries.
The heavy ice had, he said, pushed the earth down on to its mantle and when the ice melted it left a gooey substance which ‘rebounded upwards’.
This led to what is known as the Leenan Fault, which ran across the Swilly from Inishowen to Fanad and then goes across the sea where it is picked up again in Scotland.
“There would have been pretty severe quakes back in time, but there has been nothing of note in the last 50 years and there won’t be anything in the next 50.”
Deputy McHugh, meanwhile, said that in 2010 he was dismayed to learn that Donegal did not feature on maps in the National Emergency Coordinating Centre. The maps were updated during that spring.
“I have now asked the Centre to ensure that geological analysis is conducted.”