Two strong earthquakes have hit Southern California in two days. These quakes are the strongest in the area in over 20 years.

The first large earthquake hit on Thursday July 4th. It was a magnitude 6.4 earthquake, which equates to around 5 megatons of TNT.

The more recent quake hit Friday evening on July 5th. This earthquake was a 7.1, which is around 10 times stronger than the 6.4 on Thursday. The Richter scale is not linear.

The 7.1 earthquake from Friday evening is equivalent to 50 megatons of TNT, and is about the same amount of energy that was released during the Tsar Bombay, the largest thermonuclear weapon ever tested.

These earthquakes have prompted the question of “is the big one coming?” This referencing the highly feared earthquake along the San Andreas fault that might rip California into two. In short, the answer from Geologists is they don’t know. Predicting earthquakes is very difficult.

But with all these earthquakes, it also begs the question; “will a large earthquake like that happen in Texas?”

We’ve had earthquakes before, but not quite like that. In short, the answer is found in geology. The earthquakes that are often occurring in California are the result of tectonic plates moving. More specifically a “transform fault.” This fault is the result of two different continental plates sliding past one another. Every so often these plates get stuck, then budge quickly. These are what more commonly result in earthquakes.

United States Geological Survey
United States Geological Survey

Here in Texas, we don’t have the major fault lines that are present in California. We have some, just like everywhere else in the United States, but they’re not as big here. As a result, the earthquakes that we see here are generally not as strong.

There’s also fracking. This is a process in which water is injected into the subterranean rocks, boreholes, etc. to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas. Fracking is thought to have caused some minor earthquakes in the past here in East Texas.

Historically we have had some large earthquakes in recent years. In May of 2017, a 4.8 earthquake hit south of Carthage. More recently a 3.3 magnitude earthquake hit near San Augustine.


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