INCLEN VILLAGE, Nevada – A recent series of rare earthquakes centered under Lake Tahoe has scientists wondering if they could be a harbinger of larger events.
The earthquakes began in April when several small earthquakes shook the area. They have grown in strength and a 4.2-magnitude earthquake occurred under the lake at around 8:30 AM on May 28.
Dr. Graham Kent, director of the University of Nevada’s Seismology Laboratory, began carefully monitoring the basin, unsure whether these earthquakes were isolated or if they were the start of something much bigger.
“Earthquakes on fault lines below Lake Tahoe are not very common,” Kent said. “The real question is, do we experience smaller but large earthquakes and they will go away, or will they be a jolt to larger events? Statistically, they are unlikely to be the precursors or the precursor to large earthquakes, 7 or 8, but we don’t know that. That’s why there are always a few The concern that we’re starting to see earthquakes of sufficiently large size makes us worry about them.”
“Earthquakes on fault lines below Lake Tahoe are not very common. The real question is, are we experiencing smaller but large earthquakes and will disappear, or will they be precursors to larger events? Statistically, they are unlikely the precursors or precursors to large earthquakes but we don’t know That’s why there’s always a little bit of a concern that we’re starting to see earthquakes of sufficiently large size that we should be concerned about them.” University of Nevada, Reno Seismological Laboratory Director Dr. Graham Kent
A harbinger is a slight tremor that precedes the violent shaking movements of an earthquake. Energy in the Sierra Granite doesn’t dissipate in the same way, say, fracturing rock in the Bay Area, and the West Coast is long overdue for a rupture event, Kent said.
Lake Tahoe lies on three major fault lines in the region. The first and largest extends from Emerald Bay to Dollar Point, with two others traversing the Incline Village and Crystal Bay area. Dr. Kent said recent earthquakes in the basin occur in smaller faults that connect larger faults. This means that the size of her rupture is limited, but she still rubs off the larger imperfections.
The Incline Village fault line runs across the city. The image above shows the trench at Incline Village Elementary School across fault line IV. (Foreword by Dr. Graham M. Kent)
“The eastern side of the fault falls relatively to the western side,” Kent said.
The fall of these faults is what leads to the formation of the deepest parts of the lake, and can eventually affect the occurrence of a tsunami.
It would take a 6-7 magnitude earthquake to actually start seeing a tsunami in the lake, Kent said, but there’s no way for them to predict whether these previous earthquakes were related to a larger or isolated event. While he assumed what would happen in the event of a tsunami, Dr. Kent noted that one of the biggest differences lies in the season in which it occurs, especially during the summer.
“I think the biggest problem, other than the potential loss of life, which will be significant, is the boat issue,” said Dr. Kent.
The “boat problem” is that many ships can capsize during a large wave, which can rise up to 30 feet, and potentially start fires as the boat’s fuel spills. Another possible issue involves the redistribution of the entire lake depending on which direction the wave is traveling.
Dr. Kent said that while all of these things could happen, these things are worse case scenarios. For now, he has some tips for those who live and vacation at the aquarium.
Kent said, “If you feel a strong earthquake, it’s not like it’s some kind of force, but it’s strong, violent, and trembling, get away from shore immediately. The second thing people need to know is that even without an earthquake, if the water level changes dramatically or quickly Leave the beach because it could be a landslide. With an earthquake it can make a tsunami bigger, or you can have a landslide without an earthquake and it can be big.”
If you feel an earthquake, you can report it on the USGS website.
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