Archive for March, 2009

Earthquakes in the Desert

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

San Andreas fault

San Andreas fault

The desert southwest  and especially the Nevada, California area are very seismically active. This is where 2 of the worlds 8 tectonic plates collide.The Pacific plate is moving north while the north American plate is moving south along a transform boundary.

The top layer of the crust called the lithosphere moves on the semisolid athenosphere second layer. This second layer is approximately 124 miles (200 km ) deep. When 2 plates collide they form a fault line. In the southwest this fault line is the San Andreas fault. This fault runs from the east side of the Salton sea in Imperial county all the way to Ukiah in the north. When the 2 plates wedge as they slide against each other, pressure builds up. Then the rocks fracture and the plates move again. This sudden release of energy along the fault line is an earthquake.

This week the southern end of the San Andreas released some of the built up energy. This caused over 852 earthquakes. Most of the quakes were very small and only seismic recorders were aware of it. Other tremors were larger and caught people by surprise.

The San Andreas is the largest and best known of the faults in the southwest desert. There are many other smaller and minor faults that link or parallel the San Andreas fault and these faults are continuously releasing energy. These releases are small and usually only the seismographs know about them. The concern happens when the faults go quiet. This means that the faults are locked and the longer they stay locked the larger the earthquake when the faults finally release.

Living in the desert southwest can be challenging. That is why it is called the shake and bake. Not only do you have to put up with the extreme temperatures in the summer months but you get shook up as well. The only thing you can do is to be prepared for an eathquake. Keep emergency supplies and water in a protected place. Anchor tall and heavy objects to keep them from falling on you when an earthquake happens. When an earthquake happens stay away from things that can fall on you. Seek shelter under archways and heavy tables.

Living in the desert has challenges but it leads to self sufficiency if you are prepared for the worst.

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