In Northern California, I believe it may be possible that it could. And beyond just mere speculation, in this thread I intend to show, using USGS and
other scientific data, how this could be entirely possible.
My own research into this started out innocently when I obtained a recent quakes application for Google Earth (GE), sourced directly from the USGS.
You can find that app here:
This provides an auto-updating kml feed of USGS recent quakes, soon after they are reported by them.
I've been using GE a lot more lately, and have built it up specifically as a tool to aid my quake watching experience and further seismology studies,
as many on ATS already know I enjoy doing as a hobby. Yippee, and I even passed a CAL State University basic seismology assessment test with 100%
accuracy, so I feel like I am making steady progress.
Made a thread about that Here at
, and encourage anyone interested to take it too. It's fun!
But let's get right down to it. Just browsing around, taking a look at recent seismic activity in GE, I spotted this seemingly innocent swarm of
earthquakes in Northern California:
Upon a closer look, however, I noticed and recognized, from some recent research I had done about one right in the Long Valley Caldera- a geothermal
facility very close to these quakes. This is what a part of one looks like:
So I went looking around the area a lot more, discovered tons of them, and took the time to placemark most of them, until I was pretty satisfied that
this was a geothermal development area, so there are even more than than shown here, and more subproperties of the development not placemarked too.
Just look around for yourself if you like in GE or maps, but here's pic so you can get an idea:
Yes, the dots are recent quakes, and the pins are my placemarks of geothermal facilities. Starting to see a pattern here? Good, read on because this
gets worse. A lot worse.
After looking into it further, turns out this is The Geysers
area, the biggest geothermal development in the world,
which produces more power than any other. They extract heat from the Clear Lake Volcanic field, which just happens to be #1 on the USGS's list of the
most hazardous volcanoes they are concerned about:
Scroll to bottom right to see that
Now we already know that deep well injection, also used by the geothermal energy extraction process, has been known to cause smaller earthquakes, as
this topic has come about many times before at ATS. But I had no idea that it occurs to extent I am about to show you.
This is a pic of the earthquakes that have occurred in that area JUST IN THE LAST WEEK, sourced from the USGS recent quakes app linked above:
But I had also recently downloaded the entire USGS quake catalog in Google Earth
, back to 1973. So I was curious what would happen if I enabled those layers over this area. Well to make a long story short, I was only
able to load into GE those kmls files going back to 1998, because GE kept crashing after that. So yeah, I am talking about having to build this up,
losing the myplaces.kml many times, constant crashes, and a lot of work. So I am just giving you what I can here, but I think you will get the idea
rather quickly. This is what happened when I overlayed all quakes from 1998-2012, about 14 years of quake data:
So I clicked around on these quakes, viewing their info, and discovered something else. There are many 4+ magnitude quakes in there, and all of them
are shallow quakes, less than 10 km deep. In fact nearly all of them are less than 5 km deep, and probably 80% or more are less than 3 km deep. So in
my mind, there is no question they are being caused by the well injection. But since when are 4+ quakes caused by well injection nothing to worry
about? I thought only tiny quakes were produced by this process! So then I removed all the 3 mag and below, and produced this pic of JUST the 4.0+
magnitude quakes that have happened there since 1998, along with the GF layer:
And one of them reached 4.8!:
But wait, I thought a certain amount of fault area rupture area had to occur before you could get a quake that big? So I looked into that exact thing
further, and found this scientific study
, which documents
magnitudes and fault length ruptures, so you can see how much fault area it takes to rupture for various size earthquakes, mostly above 5 mag. And
they list both Ms and Mw, including surface, subsurface and fault width, for the more technically inclined reader, of actual earthquakes that have
occurred all over the world. I tried to concentrate my focus on California earthquakes in that data, seeing as we are talking about Northern Cali
But heck, just look at the bigger picture now when I put back in the placemarks and zoom out a bit, this is what we are dealing with, including most
Yeah, I have another. *raises hand* So just how close to any known faults is all this going on, causing all those earthquakes? Well, you could always
download USGS's KML Fault files
for GE, and be content with that. Just doing that
alone I discovered that all this is going on next to a dormant fault, the Cobb Mountain Fault:
And measuring that, found out it was about 11.4 km long. Comparing that alone to the data provided in the scientific doc, a triggered fault rupture
from all that injection seismicity so close to it has the potential to cause a 5.5 to 6.5 quake by itself! :shk: See the fault length measurement
Ok, so at this point in my research, a little startled, I wanted to be sure I was getting all the faults listed, and so I checked some other sources,
and amazingly came up with another, more comprehensive USGS fault list
mineral resources dept. Now why all these other faults are not included in the first KML's linked is a mystery in itself. I don't know. Or maybe now I
do. Because get this- when I overlayed THIS data on top of what I already had and started clicking around, I found this:
A darn THRUST FAULT
GOING RIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE of all that geothermal extraction! :shk: Man! I
couldn't BELIEVE they'd do this!
Large overthrust faults occur in areas that have undergone great compressional forces.
They built all this, right down on top of a dangerous thrust fault.
Straight line measurement: 25 km, but total rupture possible: Over 40
km. Quake size potential: 7+ from triggered seismicity.
So I am done. You decide for yourselves what can happen. But this took FOREVER, and is definitely the most original research and work I have ever done
on an ATS thread.
edit on Fri Jul 6th 2012 by TrueAmerican because: (no reason given)