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Are Salton Sea Earthquake Swarms Induced?


Last updated 10/6/2016 at 4:43pm

The threat of an imminent 7+ earthquake has diminished despite the U.S. Geological Survey reporting two more earthquakes, magnitudes 3.4 and 3.0, in the Salton Sea region Wednesday morning following the cluster of quakes, Mining Awareness have asked the question - are Geothermal plants to blame?

“Geothermal power is a growing energy source; however, efforts to increase production are tempered by concern over induced earthquakes. Although increased seismicity commonly accompanies geothermal production, induced earthquake rate cannot currently be forecast on the basis of fluid injection volumes or any other operational parameters. We show that at the Salton Sea Geothermal Field, the total volume of fluid extracted or injected tracks the long-term evolution of seismicity.” (Brodsky et. al. 2013)

Why would they take such risks as putting geothermal production facilities on major earthquake faults?

“The Salton Sea and surrounding basin sits over the San Andreas Fault, San Jacinto Fault, Imperial Fault Zone, and a “stepover fault” shear zone system. Geologists have determined that previous flooding episodes from the Colorado River have been linked to earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault. Sonar and other instruments were used to map the Salton Sea’s underwater faults during the study. During the period when the basin was filled by Lake Cahuilla, a much larger inland sea, earthquakes higher than magnitude 7 occurred roughly every 180 years, the last one occurring within decades of 1700. Computer models suggest the normal faults in the area are most vulnerable to deviatoric stress loading by filling in of water. Currently, a risk still exists for an earthquake of magnitude 7 to 8. Simulations also showed, in the Los Angeles area, shaking and thus damage would be more severe for a San Andreas earthquake that propagated along the fault from the south, rather than from the north. Such an earthquake also raises the risk for soil liquefaction in the Imperial Valley region.”


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