Parts of the city of Reno, Nevada have experienced 274 tremors in the past month alone. Are these tremors building up to a much larger earthquake?
Is Reno in trouble? [Photo via Shutterstock]
If this is true, then why hasn’t there been news about it? Surely an earthquake swarm like that is newsworthy. It is, but it hasn’t been making waves in the news because most of the tremors are very small. In fact, so far, only five have been stronger than a 2.0 magnitude earthquake. The largest tremor, which struck on January 16, registered as a 2.7 magnitude quake. This means that for the most part, these tremors have been too weak to be felt, and no one would have even known that they happened if not for seismographs.
It was around December 18 of last year that seismographs began recording an increase in quakes. The quakes then began to subside around January 12, but progressively increased again in the following days. Eventually, the quakes subsided again.
Colored dots indicate the estimated locations where the tremors struck.
The big question, of course, is whether or not people should worry about this earthquake swarm. The state of Nevada in general is typically a lot more seismically active than other places, so earthquakes are commonplace. Meanwhile, the area around Reno is has also experienced similar swarms to this before in 2013 and 2015. The swarm in 2013 didn’t cause any other significant tremors, while the one in 2015 was followed by a series of 3.0 magnitude earthquakes and a 4.0 magnitude earthquake.
Does this mean that this current swarm is nothing to worry about? Actually, yes. Ken Smith, an earth scientist at the University of Nevada Reno's Nevada Seismological Laboratory, says that “[t]hings are starting to cool off a little bit, so that’s good news.”
Still, it’s not all good news. Even though earthquake swarms of this nature is common around Reno, scientists are concerned about a fault that may unleash a 7.0 magnitude quake. It’s still likely that this swarm will subside without triggering a big earthquake, but the danger is still there. Scientists are closely monitoring the more recent quakes to see if there are any signs that the small quakes might give rise to a much bigger one.
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