6 Predictions for Earthquakes in New York Dating Back Over 100 Years

Mike Powers


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Image: Science and Invention / Gizmodo

New York and New Jersey were jolted by a 4.8 earthquake on Friday morning, a rare occurrence in the region. But we can’t say we weren’t warned. Scientists have been predicting The Big One could hit New York at some point. And the predictions date back over a century.

The illustrations above ran in the November 1924 issue of Science and Invention magazine. The magazine was founded by sci-fi legend Hugo Gernsback, and these were very earnest predictions for the future of New York. The drawings depicted how Manhattan might crumble under its own weight in the event of an earthquake, all because there were “caves or pockets” underneath the surface.

From the 1924 article:

A prediction that some time in the not far distant future New York City would, be shaken by an earthquake more terrible than the one which wrecked Tokio [sic] last Summer was made today by Professor David Todd, professor of astronomy at Amherst College.

There were a number of articles published in the mid-1920s about earthquakes in urban areas after that particularly deadly quake hit Japan on September 1, 1923. The event would claim over 140,000 lives after the tsunami and fires ripped through Tokyo and Yokohama.

Incredibly, some people of the 1920s blamed new technologies like radio for causing earthquakes. But given the ridiculous beliefs of people on social media here in 2024, maybe we shouldn’t judge them too harshly.

The 1920s was a heyday for anxiety about New York getting hit with an earthquake, but the rest of the 20th century also saw different predictions about possible earthquakes in New York, all the way up to a 1995 article in New York magazine, which warned something big could be ahead. Click through the slideshow for more examples from the past 100 years.



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