Why 600 mini-quakes hit Mammoth Lakes, CA

September 30, 2014 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Apocalypse

Earthquake swarm: Why 600 mini-quakes hit Mammoth Lakes, CA

September 30, 2014

A swarm of more than 600 small earthquakes have hit the Mammoth Lakes area in northern California.

Most of the quakes are too small to be even felt by people. It usually takes a magnitude 3.0 quake to be felt.

Since about 4 a.m on Thursday until 11 a.m. on Friday, the US Geological Survey (USGS) recorded more than 500 earthquakes of magnitude M1.0 and above, including 8 earthquakes between M3.0 and M3.8, which were felt locally.

Is an earthquake swarm an indication of a major quake coming? While the physics of earthquake swarms are not well understood, this appears to be a case of geological indigestion.

David Shelly, a seismologist and geophysicist with the USGS told the Mammoth Times that the quakes appear to come from the release of some carbon dioxide gas and water deep in the earth into existing cracks or faults in the ground under the Eastern Sierra.

“This fluid moves episodically into cracks or faults in the crust,” he said. “We think these quakes were triggered by this movement but driven by existing tectonics.”

The USGS California Volcanic Observatory states that these quakes do not seem to be the result of magma movement below the surface, so there’s no concern that the swarm is a precursor to a volcanic eruption.

The quakes are occurring beneath the Long Valley Caldera, about a 20-mile wide depression in the earth next to Mammoth Mountain. The USGS reports that this is the latest of several earthquake swarms this year under the caldera, which is slowly rising.

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