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This August is shaping up to be a pretty shaky month, thanks to several large earthquakes across the globe. These earthquakes have spurred reports that California is more likely to experience a catastrophic earthquake, colloquially known as "the big one," very soon. But experts say that's not how earthquakes work.
In the past three weeks, there have been eight earthquakes that were magnitude 6.5 or greater. That's 40 percent of the major quakes that have happened so far this year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Yesterday morning (Aug. 22), a magnitude-6.2 earthquake occurred about 170 miles (273 kilometers) off the coast of Oregon, along the Blanco Fractal Zone (separate from the San Andreas Fault in California), USGS reported.
Occurence - Earthquakes - Chance - Time - California
But don't worry — the occurence of these earthquakes doesn't suggest that there's a higher chance now, compared with any other time, that California will experience a major earthquake.
Seven of this month's eight monster shakers occurred around the Ring of Fire, or the Circum-Pacific Belt. This region is the horseshoe-shaped border of the Pacific Ocean where about 90 percent of the world's earthquakes occur, according to the USGS. California is included on the eastern side of the ring, and so far, the state has been spared significant earthquake activity in the past few months. In the past 30 days, the largest quake was a magnitude 4.5, which occurred July 25, 65 miles (105 km) off the coast of northern California.
Regions - Ring - Fire - Prone - Activity
Although there are regions, such as the Ring of Fire that are more prone to seismic activity than others, earthquakes are discreet events that occur randomly and independently of one another over time. The recent increase in seismic activity after an apparent lull is exactly what seismologists expect. "In a random distribution, there will be periods of low and high activity," Polet said.
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