Scientists find rift between New Mexico and Colorado geologically active and capable of generating quakes

January 13, 2012NEW MEXICOThe Rio Grande Rift, a thinning and stretching of Earth’s surface that extends from Colorado’s central Rocky Mountains to Mexico, is not dead but geologically alive and active, according to a new study involving scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. “We don’t expect to see a lot of earthquakes, or big ones, but we will have some earthquakes,” said CU-Boulder geological sciences Professor Anne Sheehan, also a fellow at CIRES. The study also involved collaborators from the University of New Mexico, New Mexico Tech, Utah State University and the Boulder-headquartered UNAVCO. The Rio Grande Rift follows the path of the Rio Grande River from central Colorado roughly to El Paso before turning southeast toward the Gulf of Mexico. Sheehan was not too surprised when a 5.3 magnitude earthquake struck about 9 miles west of Trinidad, Colo., in the vicinity of the Rio Grande Rift on Aug. 23, 2011. The quake was the largest in Colorado since 1967 and was felt from Fort Collins to Garden City, Kan. Along the rift, spreading motion in the crust has led to the rise of magma — the molten rock material under Earth’s crust — to the surface, creating long, fault-bounded basins that are susceptible to earthquakes, said Sheehan, a study co-author and also associate director of the CIRES Solid Earth Sciences Division. The team studied the Rio Grande Rift region to assess the potential earthquake hazards. Also, the team may attempt to determine vertical as well as horizontal activity in the region to tell whether the Rocky Mountains are still uplifting or not, Berglund said. As far as the potential for future earthquakes in the region, the study’s results are unequivocal, however. “The rift is still active,” Sheehan said. –Physics
This entry was posted in Earth Changes, Earth Watch, Earthquake Omens?, High-risk potential hazard zone, Lithosphere collapse & fisssure, Potential Earthchange hotspot, Seismic tremors. Bookmark the permalink.

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