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When Will It Happen Again?

And how to predict it - There are strange things going on in the sky, but even stranger things are happening right here on Earth: It turns out that recent earthquakes, even major ones, may actually be aftershocks from quakes that occurred HUNDREDS of years ago. This is good news for some earthquake-prone areas in California and bad news for others. But it does help us predict when bad things may happen again in the future.

BBC News quotes researcher Seth Stein as saying, "Most big earthquakes happen at [plate] boundaries, like the San Andreas fault. There is a lot of movement there and aftershocks go on for about ten years after a big quake." He mentions 10 years, but this can go on for a long as several hundred years. Scientists have long wondered how earthquakes occur where there is no regular earth movement. Stein says, "So if the ground has not been storing up energy for future earthquakes, these must be aftershocks."

Researcher Shimon Wdowinski predicts there will be a continuation of the current trend of mild, frequent earthquakes along the San Jacinto fault, but says this makes it less likely that The Big One that threatens the nearby San Andreas fault will occur there. The San Jacinto fault averages 4 mini-quakes per DAY. Physorg.com quotes him as saying, "Those minor to moderate events along the San Jacinto fault relieve some of the stress built by the constantly moving tectonic plates."

Right now, the USGS says there is a 31% chance of an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 or higher striking the San Jacinto fault in the next 30 years. In contrast, they say there is a 59% chance of the same event hitting the San Andreas fault during the same period of time.

Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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