Swarm Of Earthquakes Hits Just South Of San Andreas Fault
Starting this morning, a swarm of dozens of small earthquakes hit just south of the San Andreas Fault, beneath the Salton Sea, all within a few hours of each other.
The largest was a magnitude 4.6, and was followed by numerous magnitude threes.
Salton Sea earthquake swarm update: So far there's been 90+ quakes since 8:56am PT with three quakes >M4. Largest in the sequence so far is still the M4.6 quake. These swarms can generate 100s of quakes, but typically they settle down after a few days. pic.twitter.com/nixsdcD8tr— Brian Olson (@mrbrianolson) August 10, 2020
They occurred in an area known as the Brawley Seismic Zone, a transition point between the San Andreas Fault and the Imperial Fault, which extends down into Mexico.
The quakes occurred about seven miles south of the San Andreas so, naturally, people had concerns about a larger quake being triggered on the fabled fault.
Everyone in our office who has drilled/helped create the original @ShakeOut scenario took a deep breath when they saw the location of this earthquake. https://t.co/UxiH5a990C (This is also the scenario that @kpcc's #TheBigOne talked about) https://t.co/V7zbCP5ppl— Jennifer Lazo (@Jdlazo) August 10, 2020
"It's a really active area right there in the Sea. Lots of small earthquakes and they tend to be swarmy," said Morgan Page, research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "In the past these swarms have gone on for about a week or so."
Page said of the most recent quakes: "Hopefully it'll just die out and nothing bigger will happen."
Over the past 20 years there've been three similar clusters of earthquakes in the Brawley Seismic Zone, most recently in 2016.
"There's quite a long history of these fairly short lived swarm episodes that are reasonably close to the San Andreas and none of those have led to anything," said Zachary Ross, a seismologist at Caltech.
After the 2016 cluster, Ross co-authored a paper that dug into earthquake clusters in the area. It's particularly seismically active because that's where the Pacific and North American tectonic plates meet.
"We have faults that are building up strain all the time," Ross said.
The USGS is currently running models to determine just how much this series of quakes might've increased the likelihood of a bigger quake in the region.
On any given week there's a one in 10,000 chance that a magnitude seven, or greater, earthquake will hit on the southern San Andreas, according to Page. There's a 20% chance one will hit sometime in the next 30 years.
When it does hit, a major San Andreas quake could have disastrous consequences for much of Southern California.
It's always a good time to get your earthquake supplies and plan ready.
THE BIG ONE IS COMING. GET PREPARED
We don't want to scare you, but the Big One is coming. We don't know when, but we know it'll be at least 44 times stronger than Northridge and 11 times stronger than the Ridgcrest quakes last year. To help you get prepared, we've compiled a handy reading list
- Your Guide To Surviving The Big One
- For Earthquakes, Forget The 'Go-Bag.' Here's How To Prepare
- How To Not Get Life-Threatening Diarrhea After A Major Earthquake
- 10 Earthquake-Related Questions To Ask Your Landlord Immediately
- Listen to KPCC's Podcast The Big One: Your Survival Guide