July 4th earthquake won't delay the Big One. And it might have worsened quake strain

phys.org | 3/9/2011 | Staff
lukealukea (Posted by) Level 4
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Does a good-size earthquake help relieve pent-up seismic stress? Does that postpone the day of reckoning when the Big One finally arrives?

That was the question some in California were asking hopefully in the wake of the July 4 magnitude 6.4 earthquake that rattled the region.

Answer

You won't like this answer.

It's wishful thinking to imagine that, as a rule, earthquakes "relieve" seismic stress, said seismologist Lucy Jones.

Fact - Earthquakes - Risk - Quakes

In fact, generally speaking, earthquakes actually increase the risk of future quakes.

Here is a primer on earthquakes and seismic stress largely based on past interviews with Jones and other scientists:

Earthquake - Stress - Future - Quake

Q: Does an earthquake immediately relieve seismic stress, forestalling a future big quake?

A: No.

Earthquake - Aftershocks - Lots - Lots - Aftershocks

Think about what generally happens after a decent earthquake. Aftershocks. Lots and lots of aftershocks. It's going on right now in the area around the Fourth of July magnitude 6.4 earthquake in the Mojave Desert, close to Ridgecrest, a town of 29,000 notable for being a pit stop for Mammoth-bound skiers from L.A.

Q: But couldn't relieving seismic stress in one part of the state restart the earthquake clock elsewhere, so to speak?

No

A: No.

Consider: One part of California, west of the San Andreas, is constantly moving northwest, toward Alaska, relative to the other side of the Golden State, which is headed toward Mexico.

Forces - State - Mountains - Ranges - Los

These immense forces are what generated the state's mountains, from the ranges seen in the Los Angeles Basin to the hills lining the ridges of the Bay Area. There's a reason why earthquake faults are often alongside hills and mountains.

"If you see mountains in California, that means something is moving up those mountains faster than erosion is wearing them down," Jones said in an interview published last year. "Basically, when you see mountains, think earthquakes in California."

Reason - California - Deposits - Oil - Reason

It's also the reason why California has been home to lucrative deposits of oil. It's the reason...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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