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.
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.
As we reported earlier this year, a new study from California says that the cluster of tremors around the planet’s so-called Ring of Fire- a horseshoe-shaped geological disaster zone – could indicate the “big one” is due to hit.
The research, published in the journal Science Advances, involved analysis of 101 major earthquakes around the Pacific Ring of Fire between 1990 and 2016.
Thorne Lay, professor of Earth and planetary sciences at UC Santa Cruz, said: “Based on the clustering of earthquakes in space and time, the area that has just slipped is actually more likely to have another failure.”
He added that despite the stress on the fault being lowered to below failure level, “the surrounding areas have been pushed towards failure in many cases, giving rise to aftershocks and the possibility of an adjacent large rupture sooner rather than later.”
The prof told the Mail Online: “Taiwan, Guam and Japan are far apart relative to the static stress interactions, but one could examine the seismic shaking from an earlier event in the region of a later event to see if small earthquakes were triggered as the seismic waves went by which could have led to a cascade of failures culminating in a larger event.
“Until that type of analysis is done, causal connection between the events is very speculative.
“Earthquakes are happening frequently in the Ring of Fire, and some apparent space-time clustering could arise from purely random (non-interacting) activity.”
The study comes after the Ring of Fire was rocked by a spate of earthquakes in the first two weeks of February.
More than 180 people were injured and 17 people killed when a 6.4 magnitude quake struck Taiwan’s east coast on February 6.
On Tuesday a series of tremors reaching magnitudes as high as 5.7 shook the US island territory of Guam.
Since February 11, three earthquakes have hit Japan, the largest measured at 4.8 on the Richter scale and was 103 kilometres from Hachijo.
But scientists have reassured the public, saying such activity is normal for the Ring of Fire and dismissed specualtion of a “domino effect” triggering a bigger quake.
WHAT IS EARTH’S ‘RING OF FIRE’?
Earth’s so-called ‘Ring of Fire’ is a horseshoe-shaped geological disaster zone that is a hot bed for tectonic and volcanic activity.
Roughly 90 per cent of the world’s earthquakes occur in the belt, which is also home to more than 450 volcanoes.
The seismic region stretches along the Pacific Ocean coastlines, where the Pacific Plate grinds against other plates that form the Earth’s crust.
It loops from New Zealand to Chile, passing through the coasts of Asia and the Americas on the way.
IS CALIFORNIA AT RISK OF A DEVASTATING MEGAQUAKE?
A recent report from the U.S. Geological Survey has warned the risk of ‘the big one’ hitting California has increased dramatically.
Researchers analysed the latest data from the state’s complex system of active geological faults, as well as new methods for translating these data into earthquake likelihoods.
The estimate for the likelihood that California will experience a magnitude 8 or larger earthquake in the next 30 years has increased from about 4.7% to about 7.0%, they say.
‘We are fortunate that seismic activity in California has been relatively low over the past century,’ said Tom Jordan, Director of the Southern California Earthquake Center and a co-author of the study.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
August 22nd, 2018