Are you Prepared for the Next Big One? Earthquake Swarm at Long Valley Caldera, California

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The Long Valley Caldera is experiencing a large seismic swarm.

Long Valley Caldera “Supervolcano” on High Alert!

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Mammoth Lake area earthquake swarm

As magma moves through the earth, it displaces and fractures rock along the way, causing earthquakes recorded by seismometers at the surface of the earth. Volcanic earthquakes often provide the initial sign of volcanic unrest. Their signals differ from typical, tectonic, earthquakes because they tend to be found at depths shallower than 10 km, are small in magnitude (< 3), occur in swarms, and are restricted to the area beneath a volcano.

Harmonic tremor, or volcanic tremor, is the name for the continuous, rhythmic seismic energy associated with underground magma movement. At Long Valley Caldera, there are currently 61 seismometers that make up the seismic network used to determine earthquake location and energy of movement with time. The first instrument was installed in 1974 and additional instruments were added throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Between 2000 and 2003, the seismic network was updated to include additional, more modern instruments. This first graph presents the cumulative earthquakes from 1983 to now:

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Cumulative earthquakes recorded on seismometers at Long Valley Caldera, California from 1983 to now. Data from USGS.

More than 200 more earthquakes have erupted in the area in a 24 hour period. Additionally, some earthquakes were now reported at shallower depths. Rodger Wilson, who is following this area for tens of years, hasn’t seen this activity since the 1990′s! We have the impression however that the frequency of the earthquakes has seriously declined the last couple of hours. The seismicity at Mammoth Lakes California has even increased compared to this morning. Below all earthquake epicenters during the last 24 hours. Depth of the hypocenters still at +10 km. This second graph shows the earthquakes recorded within the last month… Did you observe the large increase in the last two days?

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Earthquake swarm at Long Valley Caldera: More than 1000 quakes recorded in California. Next big one is close?

Earthquake swarms are a regular phenomenon at Long Valley but nobody knows where the magma will move next. We will have to wait and see if this latest swarm indicates a massive movement of magma and might be an early-warning sign that Long Valley might be moving towards an eruption.

The last eruption at the volcano is said to have occurred 700,000 years ago and is long over-due.

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