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Magnitude 3.9 Earthquake at Ridgecrest in California, near epicenter of the 7.1 in July

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Downtown Los Angeles earthquake

80,000 Small Quakes have moved the fault line 0.8 inches since July 5th Quake…

On Wednesday, November 13th at 11:26 a.m., an earthquake with a magnitude of 3.9 and a depth of 5.7 miles was reported 12 miles away from Ridgecrest, California. Interestingly, this earthquake is located at the same epicenter as the record-breaking 6.1 magnitude and 7.1 magnitude earthquakes that occurred on July 4th and 5th, respectively.

A closer look at the big July earthquake that occurred on Independence Day reveals that it appears to have activated the Garlock fault. The fault line is 185 miles long and runs from a junction with the San Andreas fault at Antelope Valley and has largely been inactive for the past 500-years. However since the July quakes, Ridgecrest has felt more than 80,000 earthquakes, most of them too low on the richter scale to warrant news coverage, resulting from the Garlock fault’s movement.

“The fact that the Ridgecrest rupture terminated right next to the Garlock is what cased this behavior.”

Zachary Ross, Assistant Professor of Geophysics at Caltech

However, generally, such movement should not cause immediate alarm as it’s quite common for faults to shift after a big earthquake. A “trigger slip” is where an earthquake is triggered by a previous quake – in this case, according to seismologists, today’s quake may have been a “passive response” to the Magnitude 7.1 earthquake, 11 miles from Ridgecrest, CA at 8:19 PM.

“The fact that we have a trigger slip after a 7 [magnitude earthquake] is really common. It’s like a passive response to the energy being released by the big earthquake”

Lucy Jones, Seismologist
Short video showing tips on how to prepare for an earthquake

The best policy is not to be Alarmed but to stay Prepared

In early October, Time magazine published a report citing scientific study, by researchers from  the California Institute of Technology and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory,  where it was indicated that the movement along the Garlock fault could indicate a possible increase in seismic activity, and that the fault was capable of producing an 8.0 magnitude earthquake at some point, although there is no way to predict when.

Earthquakes with a 3.0 magnitude or more were reported to have had an epicenter near the Ridgecrest fault in the last ten days. With a recent three-year data sample as a reference, 234 earthquakes on average happen every year in California and Nevada with 3.0 to 4.0 magnitudes. It is important to bear in mind that each whole number on the Richter scale is exponentially stronger than the previous whole number (an 8.0 is 33 times stronger than a 7.0 but a 9.0 is, yikes, 1,089 times stronger – arrived at by multiplying 33×33).

Although this earthquake, at 3.9 was at a magnitude that is common and not powerful enough to do damage, the fact is that Southern California is home to highly vulnerable fault lines and a quake measuring 8.0 or higher is going to happen at some point, it is only a question of when. Therefore it is highly advisable to prepare for any earthquake-induced emergencies that may happen now, and your chance of avoiding any negative effects will be far higher in the event that “the big one” happens anytime soon.


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