Nearly 70 earthquakes hit the Pacific “Ring of Fire” over a 48-hour period. It has prompted fears that the so-called “big one” could shortly hit California. Scientists have warned that a large earthquake in this region could set off a domino effect of other subsequent quakes.
A large swath of earthquakes hit the Pacific’s so-called Ring of Fire earlier this week, prompting some to wonder if it is a precursor to the oft-discussed massive earthquake, colloquially known as “the Big One.”
Sixty-nine earthquakes, including 16 tremors registering 4.5 or above on the Richter scale, recently hit the area, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which recorded the events but did not issue a warning.
Several of the quakes registered significant impacts, including one that hit 5.0 and shook the area on Tuesday morning. Fiji appeared to be the most impacted, as five tremors above a 4.5 magnitude hit the small island.
‘BIG ONE’ COMING? EARTHQUAKES OFF THE WEST COAST COULD TRIGGER A GLOBAL EVENT
A string of recent earthquakes off the West Coast of the U.S., ranging from 2.8 to 5.6 on the Richter scale, could help trigger the earthquake colloquially known as “the Big One.”
The map provided by the U.S. Geological Survey highlights 11 recent earthquakes, all occurring on the seabed of the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate, approximately 6 miles below the surface. The plate, which is described as “small” by the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN), is fairly active, moving east-northeast at approximately 1.6 inches per year.
To date, the USGS has not issued any warnings over this spate of earthquakes, given the fairly common nature of the caliber of quakes, Don Blakeman, a geophysicist at the National Earthquake Information Center told the Daily Mail.
Part of the concern surrounding the plate is that it is not a smooth motion, but rather a motion described as “sticky,” causing strain to build up “until the fault breaks and a few meters of Juan De Fuca slips under North America in a big earthquake.”
PNSN noted that it would take a lot of slip (approximately 10s of meters) over a very large area to generate a M9 (magnitude of 9.0) level earthquake that could hit the region, but
noted that it does occur approximately every 550 years on average.
The cause for concern is what happens when the Juan de Fuca plate eventually submerges under the much larger Pacific plate. For approximately 330 years, the plate has continuously been pushed down, an activity that will eventually lead it to be pushed under the North America plate, causing the region to sink six feet on the minimum and may result in one of the largest earthquakes in human history.
If the entire 650-mile long Cascadia Subduction Zone (which includes the Juan de Fuca plate) were to experience a full rupture, it could not only trigger a 9.0 earthquake, but a tsunami as well.
The Juan De Fuca plate stretches from Northern California to British Columbia and the Cascadia Subduction Zone stretches from N. Vancouver Island to Cape Mendicino, California.
Recent studies have highlighted how vulnerable we are to the proverbial “Big One.”
Last month, one study detailed that there is a 15- to 20-mile-long stretch of the San Andreas fault ‒ called the Durmid ladder structure ‒ that could result in an earthquake with a magnitude of 7 or greater.
“This newly identified Durmid ladder structure is a voluminous, right-reverse fault zone that broadens across Durmid Hill around rotating domains of regularly spaced, left- and right-lateral cross faults,” a research article on the study reads.
The research put the odds at 75 percent that it would occur in both northern and southern California sometime over the next 30 years.
The “Big One” has been warned about several times before, with the USGS writing extensively on the topic, including how to use past earthquakes to better predict the future.
Luckily, the earthquakes did not reach the western coast of the U.S., which partially sits on the Cascadia subduction zone, a fault that stretches from mid-Vancouver Island to Northern California. The recent tremors have sparked concern that “the Big One” could be near, according to The Daily Mail, but the USGS has made no mention of this.
Of the 69 earthquakes, 53 hit the area on Sunday, followed by the 16 subsequent tremors, impacting Indonesia, Bolivia, Japan and the aforementioned Fiji.
“The Big One”
“The Big One” is often described as an earthquake with a magnitude 8 or above, causing massive destruction to California, which some have said is overdue for an earthquake of this magnitude. California sits on the San Andreas fault, a 750-mile fault that has been responsible for some of the state’s most devastating earthquakes.
The last earthquake that came close to a 8.0 magnitude in California was the great earthquake of 1906, which hit a magnitude of 7.9 and shook San Francisco to the ground, destroying 80 percent of the city and resulted in 3,000 deaths.
A massive earthquake registering 8.2 was registered on Sunday, hitting 174 miles north-northeast of Ndoi Island, Fiji, according to the the USGS. Luckily, the massive quake did not cause any significant damage, hitting at a depth of 347.7 miles, too deep to cause a tsunami.
“We are monitoring the situation and some places felt it, but it was a very deep earthquake,” Director Apete Soro told Reuters in an interview.
The Ring of Fire
The Ring of Fire is a 25,000 mile horseshoe-shaped ring, accounting for approximately 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes, according to the USGS.
The region also contains 452 volcanoes, more than 75 percent of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes.
Though the USGS did not issue a warning, the recent spat of earthquakes in the Ring of Fire could eventually cause some problems for the western part of the U.S. and other close regions.
Speaking with Vox in February, University of California Santa Cruz professor Emily Brodsky said “earthquakes and volcanoes can interact,” before adding it’s unclear how much the string of earthquakes we’ve seen in recent months are connected. Brodsky also said that having quakes and volcanic eruptions at the same time in an active area is not unusual.
In late July, a string of recent earthquakes off the West Coast of the U.S., ranging from 2.8 to 5.6 on the Richter scale, also raised questions of whether the “Big One” could be near.
FoxNews Chris Ciaccia