Expert explains: Mackay can expect even more earthquakes

THE Mackay-Whitsunday region has experienced a huge jump in the number of earthquakes recorded in the past year compared to previous years, with seven in the past 12 months.

To put this in perspective, there were just 12 earthquakes recorded in the region in the 30 years between 1985 to 2015.

On Sunday night, Geoscience Australia recorded a 4.3 magnitude earthquake off the coast just south of Mackay in the Coral Sea at 9.38pm.

While some would be quick to assume the reason for this was an impending doomsday scenario, Geoscience Australia senior duty seismologist Hugh Glanville has assured the actual cause of this phenomenon is significantly less terrifying.

Almost three years ago on August 18, 2016, Bowen experienced an offshore magnitude 5.8 earthquake - events of this size have the potential to cause slight damage to buildings.

What has occurred in the region since then, according to Mr Glanville, is a continuing sequence of aftershocks from that major event.

There have been 86 aftershocks recorded in Mackay-Whitsunday since then.

"Due to that large earthquake in 2016, there has been a significant increase in local earthquake activity," he said.

There's been 66 aftershocks recorded in the Bowen region since August's 5.8 magnitude earthquake.
There's been 86 aftershocks recorded in the Mackay-Whitsunday region since the August 2016 5.8 magnitude earthquake. Geoscience Australia

"When you have a large earthquake, you would expect a few magnitude 4 aftershocks, you would expect 10 to 100 magnitude 3 aftershocks and hundreds of magnitude 2 aftershocks.

"That's because it is continuing to release stress built up in a local area along the fault ruptured by the large earthquake."

Magnitude 2.5 to 5.4 earthquakes can be felt, but only cause minor damage.

Mr Glanville said the activity being experienced in the region was "not abnormal".

"There's always a remote chance of a large earthquake, but the chances of that are quite rare," he said.

In the event an earthquake can be felt, Geoscience Australia recommends finding shelter until the shaking stops.