by Michael Snyder, The Economic Collapse Blog:
Over the last few days, a swarm of almost 600 earthquakes has shaken southern California, and a lot of people are becoming extremely concerned about what will happen next. In fact, if you go on Twitter right now you will find a tremendous amount of speculation that “the Big One” could be coming. The experts are trying to calm the general public by assuring them that it is probably not likely that “the Big One” is imminent, but they don’t know for sure. Forecasting earthquakes is not like forecasting the weather, and experts will continue to tell us that a major event is not likely until the day when one finally happens.
But what everyone can agree upon is that earthquake swarms cause the probability of a major event to rise. Of course that doesn’t mean that there will be a major event associated with this current earthquake swarm, and there may not be a major event if an earthquake swarm occurs next month. But without a doubt what is going on in southern California right now is worth watching.
According to the Los Angeles Times, this current swarm of quakes has been centered “around the town of Westmoreland in Imperial County”…
A swarm of hundreds of small earthquakes struck in and around the town of Westmoreland in Imperial County over the past couple days
The Southern California Seismic Network recorded nearly 600 earthquakes, the smallest a magnitude 1.1, as of 6 a.m. Thursday, according to a report from the project by Caltech and the U.S. Geological Survey.
Most of the rumbling has been relatively minor, but during a period of less than three hours on Wednesday there were 45 earthquakes of at least magnitude 3.0…
‘In just 2.5hr Westmorland swarm has had 45 quakes of M≥3.0. One of the largest swarms we have had in the Imperial Valley – and it is historically the most active swarms in SoCal,’ seismologist Dr Lucy Jones wrote on Twitter on Wednesday night.
A magnitude 4.9 quake has been the largest event so far, and we shall see what else happens over the next several days.
According to Dr. Lucy Jones, this earthquake swarm has occurred along some small faults “that connect the San Andreas and Imperial faults”…
None of the earthquakes that have been happening in the Imperial Valley are anywhere near the San Andreas fault. They are in the Brawley Seismic Zone – a network of small faults that connect the San Andreas and Imperial faults.
This is an area that has had some pretty serious earthquake swarms in the past.
In fact, the USGS is telling us that there were also large swarms in the area in 1981 and in 2012…
The quake swarms “are located in an area of diffuse seismic activity between the San Andreas fault in the north and the Imperial fault to the south,” the USGS says. Previous swarms in the area happened in 1981 and 2012.
“Past swarms have remained active for 1 to 20 days, with an average duration of about a week,” the USGS reported.
Obviously the swarms of 1981 and 2012 did not produce something much larger, and hopefully this one will not either.
But the USGS is warning that there is a “very small probability” that a quake of magnitude 7.0 or above could potentially happen…
‘The ongoing swarm could trigger an earthquake significantly larger than the M4.9 that occurred on the 30 September (i.e., M7.0 and above),’ they warned.
‘While this is a very small probability, if such an earthquake were to occur, it would have serious impacts on communities nearby and would be followed by aftershocks that would increase the number of smaller earthquakes per day.’
However, as I noted above, the truth is that they don’t really know.
None of the experts has any way to reliably forecast earthquakes in advance, and someday when “the Big One” finally strikes there may not be any sort of advance warning at all.
But the experts do believe that it is inevitable that eventually “the Big One” will arrive, and one particularly alarming study concluded that the full length of the San Andreas fault could potentially “unzip all at once”….
For years, scientists believed the mighty San Andreas—the 800-mile-long fault running the length of California where the Pacific and North American plates meet—could only rupture in isolated sections.
But a recent study by federal, state and academic researchers showed that much of the fault could unzip all at once, unleashing a rare, singular catastrophe. Now, insurers have used that research to come up with a new analysis of the damage that could be caused by statewide break of the San Andreas.
Could you imagine the utter devastation that such an event would cause?
Scientists have discovered that enormous earthquakes in the distant past caused the ground to sink by as much as three feet in some portions of southern California, and some scientists have warned that if such an event happened today that “it could plunge large parts of California into the sea almost instantly”…