Tiny Earthquakes Happen Every Few Minutes In Southern California, Study Finds

NPR.org | 4/18/2019 | Staff
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Click For Photo: https://media.npr.org/assets/img/2019/04/18/ap_19016104913493_wide-6d1084457b07b37b4bfbf739e10477345b45293a.jpg?s=1400

A map shows earthquake faults in part of Southern California. Scientists using hundreds of graphics processors found that the region experienced 1.81 million temblors over a decade-long span — 10 times more than what had previously been detected.

Detecting very small earthquakes is notoriously difficult. The churning of the ocean, a passing car or even the wind can feel a lot like a minor quake to the sensors that blanket seismically active parts of the U.S.

Problem - Scientists - Data - Earthquakes - Region

That's a problem for scientists who rely on data about all the earthquakes in a region to study what triggers the biggest, most destructive ones.

Now, a team of scientists says it has found a way to accurately detect tiny earthquakes, and it has published a new, more comprehensive list of quakes that occurred over a recent 10-year period in Southern California. The work was published Thursday in the journal Science.

Team - Data - Network - Sensors - California

The team relied on data from a network of about 400 seismic sensors in California, spread from the U.S.-Mexico border up through the southern part of the state. Those sensors continuously measure movement in the Earth's crust, looking for evidence of quakes. During the decade from 2008 to 2017, scientists had already identified 180,000 earthquakes in the region.

"They have a robust seismic network in Southern California," explains Daniel Trugman, a seismologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and an author of the study. But while 180,000 might seem like a large number of quakes, there were many, many more hiding undetected in the data.

Trugman - Collaborators - Data - Array - Computer

When Trugman and his collaborators re-analyzed the data using a powerful array of computer processors, they found evidence of 10 times as many earthquakes — 1.81 million temblors in a decade, or roughly one tiny earthquake every three minutes or so.

"You don't feel them happening all the time," Trugman says. But "they're happening all the...
(Excerpt) Read more at: NPR.org
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