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Is California Due For A Big Earthquake?

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  • Is California Due For A Big Earthquake?

    Updated January 15, 2010

    Small earthquakes in California ... tremors near the Philippines ... devastation in Haiti. Is the Earth in a period of increased seismic activity? And is the U.S. due for a big one?

    A handful of quakes have shaken California over the past few weeks, ranging from smaller 4.4-magnitude shakers to a larger (and more recent) 6.5 quake off the Northern coast of the state. Californians have long lived uneasily in the presence of the San Andreas fault, the massive rift that runs the length of the state. But in light of the recent rumblings there and the dreadfully destructive quake in Haiti, many are worrying that the long-feared "Big One" on the West Coast may be just around the corner.

    "Earthquake prediction has been something of a Holy Grail for the seismological community, and has proven just as elusive," says David Bowman, chairman of the department of geological sciences at California State University, Fullerton.Every year there are approximately 150 earthquakes greater than magnitude 6, and 15-20 events above magnitude 7 somewhere in the world, Bowman said in an interview. Some can be as deep as 500 miles beneath the surface of the earth, and they are barely noticeable.

    But the 7.0 earthquake in Haiti this week was not only strong, it was also quite shallow -- just six miles underground, a factor that increased its destructive power. The quake's center was a few miles southwest of the well-populated capital, Port-au-Prince, which is along a 60-mile stretch of the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault. That fault line runs east-west and reaches as far as Jamaica.

    The colors on this map of California represent the probability of a nearby earthquake rupture (within 3 or 4 miles) of magnitude 6.7 or larger in the next 30 years. The chance of such an event exceeds 99 percent.

    A shifting tectonic plate -- massive segments of the Earth's crust -- lies just south of Haiti. The Caribbean Plate slowly slides eastward. Further north, the North American Plate moves in the opposite direction. Stress builds up slowly as the two plates grind along a mutual boundary, and it is released through small temblors or via a major earthquake. The shift under Haiti came in a horizontal, side-to-side motion.It was Haiti's first earthquake in a century.

    But while the geological events behind the Haitian earthquake are somewhat startling, it is highly unlikely that the temblor had anything to do with the recent seismic events in California, or that it presages another pending disaster elsewhere, scientists say."The rate of earthquakes is more-or-less constant on a global scale," Bowman told "However, as the Earth's population continues to grow and as our societies become ever more linked through communication and commerce, our awareness of individual earthquakes has grown.

    "There is no known connection between these events," he said. "The fact that these earthquakes happened so closely together in time is a coincidence. To draw an analogy, USC, my alma mater, won the 2004 BCS Championship in Football, and Cal State Fullerton, my employer, won the 2004 College World Series. Is there some connection between them? No."Nevertheless, scientists believe a tremendous earthquake in California is almost inevitable. In 2008, a multi-disciplinary collaboration of scientists and engineers released the Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast (UCERF), which predicts a 99.7 percent likelihood of a 6.7 or larger earthquake in California in the next 30 years.

    Other disasters may be in store for Americans as well, notably the so-called "supervolcano" beneath Yellowstone National Park."This is an active volcanic and tectonic area, and these are the kinds of things we have to pay attention to," said Robert Smith, who directs the Yellowstone Seismic Network, which operates seismic stations around the park. He said quakes in the park have ranged in strength from barely detectable to one of magnitude 3.8 that happened last year.

    "Could it develop into a bigger fault or something related to hydrothermal activity? We don't know. That's what we're there to do, to monitor it for public safety."Lubos Motl, a Czech theoretical physicist, and former Harvard University assistant professor, said a particular earthquake can be predicted only "a few seconds" before it begins. "Earthquakes are really fast, and pretty much random, geological events," he said, adding: "It's somewhat unlikely that our ability to forecast earthquakes will increase significantly when the technology gets better."

    Keith Lockitch, a fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute in New York City, said Haiti, the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere, suffered terribly because its economy makes it much less resilient to disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes."The toll of death and human suffering is much worse in a pre-industrial country like Haiti than it would be from a comparable quake near, say, San Diego," Lockitch said. "What the tragedy in Haiti should make us realize is just how important industrial development under capitalism is in keeping people as safe as possible from such events."


  • #2
    Are their going to be new beaches in CA soon?


    • #3
      Actually the old saw that I heard is that Arizona residents will be able to make a fortune selling their beachfront property after "THE BIG ONE". But the San Andreas Fault is not the only threat. Their is a fault system just off shore of Washington State that has even more potential for destruction than the San Andreas fault. And like the yellowstone supervolcano, it is overdue for another event.

      Then you have the New Madrid Fault near St Louis Mo. that could make the left coast faults look like practice runs for the really big show. There were a series of three big quakes back in late 1811 and early 1812 that were so violent that they rang church bells on the east coast and redirected a portion of the Mississippi river. Do a google search on these terms, "new madrid 1811 earthquake" and you will get a wealth of information on the worst earthquake by far to have hit the continental United States. If the same series of quakes and aftershocks occurred today millions would die and parts of four states would be destroyed.


      • #4
        Sobering information.
        We must be at the commission that our Heavenly Father has urged us all to do.
        Spread the gospel of good news to all before the unsaved go to Hell for eternal.
        Death is more sure to happen imminently than we can predict a natural disasters such as earthquakes,tornadoes,floods, fires and etc.
        May we all love the Lord so much that we will obey His command to win the lost to Him!


        • #5
          We have a small town outside of Oklahoma City named Jones. For a long while they have been having tremors. Most are 2.0-4.0, but there have been a lot of them. They sent a team of sciencist here to check it and now they are putting in monitors.


          • #6
            when I see the devastation in Haiti I pray that we never see another earthquake.


            • #7
              The SoCal-Nevada map shows 1044 earthquakes in the past week. In the 6 years I've been watching it has never been above 850, and only for short periods of time. Check out the clustering activity at the ends of the fault lines. I don't think that's a good sign of things to come.



              • #8
                There was a 5.7 earthquake today in Venezuela!!!


                • #9
                  I have looked at US fault lines and there is only one on record for Oklahoma, and it is in the southwest paet of the state.


                  • #10
                    I don't think we're due...................we're OVERDUE!!!!


                    • #11
                      Well, for now things seem pretty quiet. But something we were discussing at work peaked my interest though I've not had time to research, but in my bedroom one of my windows is loose...has been for a few years...just had not had the Landlord replace it.

                      Well whenever there is a earthquake, it rattles, and also sometimes when a car playing extremely loud music, or when someone slams a door too hard. Anyway, I was mentioning how lately when all is quiet, it still rattles and more so in the past month or so. I have actually gotten up and looked out because it was that pronounced. But no wind, no cars, no birds....just rattling. And oddly with strong winds, the windchime will play but the window does not rattle-- so it is more of something coming from within the building or a loud vibration.....

                      And so someone brought up that not all earthquake movement is picked up on the USGS monitors. Have you guys ever heard anything like that before?


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by kmendel View Post
                        I don't think we're due...................we're OVERDUE!!!!
                        It does seem that way...


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by MROD View Post
                          Are their going to be new beaches in CA soon?
                          Not funny if you live in Cali...geesh


                          • #14
                            Simple research into plate tectonics would illustrate that the plates along the San Andreas Fault are moving north vs south against each other - not up and down. For Arizona to have oceanfront property, I would think at least half if not more of the entire U.S. would feel the earthquake.

                            California just had a sizable earthquake off the northern coast of the state - near Eureka. There also have been swarms of quakes along the border with Mexico. There's no way to tell if more of the smaller size are coming or if these previous ones relieved stress from the San Andreas Fault.

                            Basically, we continually pray for the LORD's protection on a daily basis.
                            Romans 8:31 "31What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? "

                            Romans 8:38-39 "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."


                            • #15
                              I live in Idaho... a little too close to Yellowstone for my liking right now. It's concerning. Have also heard several scientists online predicting major earthquakes in CA before the 24th. Who knows? The earth is groaning, I think we can all agree to that. I just pray that Jesus comes quickly for His children! Life is spiraling out of control!
                              1 Thessalonians 5:4 (New International Version)

                              4But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.