California residents nerves rattled by earthquake swarm in Inland Empire

May 2, 2012 LOS ANGELES, CAAn ongoing swarm of small earthquakes is rattling homes and nerves in the Inland Empire. Over the weekend, there were a handful of new quakes near Devore, Idyllwild and Indio. The Devore quake on Saturday morning measured 3.8. The recent earthquakes have been near the San Andreas Fault, that ominous crack in the Earth that threatens SoCal with the “Big One.” The current swarm may seem like a lot of quakes, but that’s not necessarily the case. UC Riverside professor and earthquake expert Gareth Funning crunched the numbers for April 2012 compared to the same time last year. “There were 200 more events of all earthquake sizes a year ago than there were this year,” Funning said. The last major rupture of the San Andreas Fault happened about 330 years ago — near Fort Tejon, north of Los Angeles. Seismologists say we’re overdue for another one. “It’s a one in two chance in the next 30 years that this earthquake will happen,” Funning said. But pressure on the San Andreas Fault will not, as rumor has it, cause California to fall into the ocean, Funning said. “It’s causing the mountains to rise and causing California to rise out of the sea,” Funning said. As for the all recent quakes in the Inland Empire, he calls them purely random. –NBC LA
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17 Responses to California residents nerves rattled by earthquake swarm in Inland Empire

  1. That’s interesting that expert Funning says that earthquakes cause the mountains to rise rather than leading California to fall into the sea. Alvin, what is your take on this? This puzzles me–it’s new information to me. If it’s true, at the very least the area behind the Sierra would not be flooded by a tsunami, although one can imagine a tsunami coming up the Valley from Baja.

    • Im

      I have no idea what Funning is talking about. What uplift? California is a convergent transform plate boundary where the Pacific Plate is sliding pass the North American Plate along the SA. You can have orogeny in folds where there is crust collisions but how does this relate to a swarm on the San Andreas fault?

      • Thanks, Alvin. And thanks for the clear map.
        I have never been able to understand how the higher elevations could go into the sea, but Stan Deyo explains this as probable subsidence of the whole area up through Nevada and even parts of Colorado. It’s easy to imagine Encinitas falling into the sea, which it is already doing on the cliffs where I used to walk…but the Sierras? Mind boggling.

      • There are many strange and terrible sights that await us…I’m sure.

      • Irene C says:

        Thank you for your answer, Alvin. I was going to ask a similar question. I also had no idea what Funning was talking about. Sounds like “All is well. Just go back to sleep. All is normal.”


  2. susanm says:

    i have been monitoring earthquakes,off and on as a hobby for the past two years ,i live in los angeles. it appears to me that there is an increase in earthquakes. 1. in the last few weeks 2. in the number of mid size 4.0 to 5.3 range 3. in the times per day 4. in multiple locations 5. sometimes in multiple locations at seconds apart yet in different regions 6. it is in the gscs data figures that smaller quakes have drasticly declined increasingly each year since 2000,if you notice the daily data ,the longer it takes for a smaller quake to show ,the bigger the sequencial quakes are ,resulting in a lower level decline and a mid level increase . if that pattern continues it seems ,los angeles sf and alaska and south america will be expeirencing more frequent mid range quakes and the other side will start expeiriencing larger large-range quakes . how is tonga feeling ? they have been getting 5.0 at least every day ,some days two or three , for the last couple of weeks. imagine if los angeles had a 5.0 even once a month. thats how i am looking at it. hopefully we are going thru a bad cycle and it recedes.

  3. Marshallrn says:

    Some parts of California are moving in an upward movement. But the other parts are moving down and up. When the pacific plates guides the LA area north towards San Franvisco over the next something thousand years, LA area will mostly be pushed up and down as it re forms. Yet the land on the side of the North American Plate will continue Westward and cause land to continue pushing up slowly.
    I live on the East side of the San Andreas in Northern Bay Area and the sister fault lines in this area are all on top of small mountains.
    As far as California “falling” into the sea, not going to happen. Yet the coast will always be transforming. Above and below sea level.

  4. Marshallrn says:

    The small mountain 3 miles to the east of where I live has the Rodgers/Hayward Fault along the ridge line. There have been some geologist that have found fish fossils towards the top, dating showed that the mountain used to be below sea level and has risen to its current higth and continues.

  5. Emanni says:

    Alvin, if I understand earthquake expert Funning correctly, it’s a toss of a coin for the next “Big One” to happen in the next 30 years (a one in two chance). In light of all the earthquake activity around the Earth over the past two years, those chances or odds don’t seem good for those living in Southern California in the near future.

    On January 9, 1857, near Fort Tejon, a 7.9 quake ruptured the southern part of the San Andreas Fault for a length of about 225 miles (350 kilometers).

  6. Chris says:

    The pacific plate is diving under the north American plate and thus the uplift to the Sierra Nevada mountains. Essentially the surface is being scraped off the pacific plate. In the Owens Valley is an ancient fault that was the plate boundary eons ago. Eventually the San Andreas fault will be replaced by another boundary fault as the process continues. That is why California is not going to fall into the sea as portrayed in dramatic movies. Land mass is actually being added to the North American plate’s western boundary along the US coast. In the middle of the Pacific is the Mariana’s trench where the sea floor is spreading outward. Alvin, the writer is part right. The activity along the various faults in California was higher last year until the Japanese mega quake than it fell off dramatically. Since April 11th the activity has been accelerating. The quake at Devore should concern geologists because that is the lower end of the 1857 break with the section to the south having not broken in historical times. Look at the quake activity with some imagination which understands the the west side of the San Andreas is moving north and the east end south. Look at all the quakes over the last 30 days and it becomes obvious that pressure is building and triangulating on the Devore spot whe the San Jacinto and San Andreas meet. The section between Parkfield and Devore is pretty much locked because of the hook in the fault thus the growing pressure over time.

    • I

      More specifically, the Farallon plate is subducting under the NA Plate but we also have some different dynamics going on with the right-lateral strike slip fault of the San Andreas. The Juan de Fuca Plate, Explorer, Gorda, Cocos and Nazca Plates are remnants of the Farallon Plate, which has been subducting under North America since the Jurrasic period. I’m not in disagreement with you, I just don’t think he was addressing everything going on with the SA. Wikipedia: “All land west of the fault on the Pacific Plate is moving slowly to the northwest while all land east of the fault is moving southwest (relatively southeast as measured at the fault) under the influence of plate tectonics. The rate of slippage averages approximately 33 to 37 millimetres (1.3 to 1.5 in) annually across California. The westward component of the motion of the North American Plate creates compressional forces which are expressed as uplift in the Coast Ranges. Likewise, the northwest motion of the Pacific Plate creates significant compressional forces where the North American Plate stands in its way, creating the Transverse Ranges in Southern California, and to a lesser, but still significant, extent the Santa Cruz Mountains, site of the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989. Studies of the relative motions of the Pacific and North American plates have shown that only about 75 percent of the motion can be accounted for in the movements of the San Andreas and its various branch faults. The rest of the motion has been found in an area east of the Sierra Nevada mountains called the Walker Lane or Eastern California Shear Zone. The reason for this is not as yet clear, although several hypotheses have been offered and research is ongoing. One hypothesis which gained some currency following the Landers Earthquake in 1992 is that the plate boundary may be shifting eastward, away from the San Andreas to the Walker Lane. Assuming the plate boundary does not change as hypothesized, projected motion indicates that the landmass west of the San Andreas Fault, including Los Angeles, will eventually slide past San Francisco, then continue northwestward toward the Aleutian Trench, over a period of perhaps twenty million years.”

      • Chris says:

        Thanks Alvin for the great information! I have been fascinated with earthquakes and fault lines since my first quake in 1971 in LA. There is much to study and more to find out. The LA basin is a strange area that many geologists at UCLA when I was an undergrad there said was being “squeezed” by the Pacific and NA plates. They even suggested that it might fracture in time into a disc like the Fuca plate. The motion is almost like a wheel or cog being slowly turned in a circle. That is why at Rancho Palos Verde the bluffs are always moving and eventually the peninsula will break off and become an island. Catalina used to be attached to the mainland! I found two great study’s done in (I think) 2009 on the foreshocks that lead up to the 1857 event. They happened before dawn and at sunrise on jan 9th and the scientists believe that one was at San Juan Baptista on the San Andreas and the other was to the west. Both were north of the upper break at Parkfield (Cholame CA). One study suggested that there might have been a “seismic acceleration” leading up to the event. I think we may be seeing something similar taking place today but with the upper break at Devore and south to beyond the Salton Sea. Only the Good Lord knows the time and place for sure.

      • That’s very interesting. You’re a wealth of information, Chris. I appreciate it.

        Grace in Christ

  7. gary p says:

    I wonder what happens if one plate slides under the other. Seems there would be a rise someplace and fall the other. Interesting.

  8. Joseph t. Repas says:

    The scariest line in the article is when the author says,’ As for all recent quakes in the Inland Empire he calls them purely random.” A very polite way of saying, Hey! I don’t have a clue…No scientist that knows about Earth sciences ever says” random” because nothing in this world is by chance. I would rather scientists say we just don’t know at this time but we will find out the truth.

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