California Quakes & Volcanoes

Over on the W.O.O.D. page a discussion of the recent 6.x and now 7.x quakes in the mostly empty area north of the Mojave Desert has been going on.

I made a very lengthy comment there that I’ve decided to elevate to a posting. Both to provide a place to discuss what’s happening in California now, and so that I can put up a visual aid (you can embiggen greatly):

California Volcanoes and Recent Quakes

California Volcanoes and Recent Quakes

This map is from:

You can see how the California Volcanoes make a kind of a line down from near Lake Tahoe and toward the Gulf Of California. Not on this map is that Mexican volcanoes continue on down the Gulf of California and are more active than those in California (or have been in the last few hundred years).

That is a Rift Zone where (just like in Iceland) an ocean ridge spreading zone comes ashore. That is why the Salton Sea (where the first green triangle volcano at the bottom is located) is below sea level. It is also why Death Valley is below sea level. There’s several thousand feet of rubble in the bottom of Death Valley or it would be even deeper; but as it rips open, dirt and rocks from the mountains around it erodes in trying to fill it. Were it not for the compression forces shoving up the mountains of California (as the Pacific plate slams into the North American plate) this area would be as volcanic as Iceland.

The erosion of the Grand Canyon filled in a silt dam of sorts that keeps the Gulf of California from extending to the Salton Sea (or further) inland.

Notice how the recent quakes follow that path of the volcanoes.

At the “bend” in the east border of California is a blue blob. That’s Lake Tahoe. Not shown on the map is the “extinct” volcano of the Sutter Buttes. Take a line from Lake Tahoe out toward the ocean to that green volcano triangle (Clear Lake – a volcanic caldera just north of The Geysers at Geyserville…) and about 1/2 way from Sacramento to Chico basically on that line is the Sutter Buttes. Just like Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen (in that cluster of volcanoes in the north end of California) it popped up closer to the midline of the State.

By looking at this map and noticing that the activity is all back in that volcanic field area, and not on the more coastal San Andreas system, you can see why I’m not thinking it is much of a ‘feature’ that this big quake didn’t hit Los Angeles. It could well indicate a renewal of rifting and volcanic activity. Do note that this is Highly Unlikely and even if it were happening, it is on Geologic Time Scale and “now” can mean we see results in 5000 years…

Here’s my comment from the other thread:

@Per The Quake:

I’d actually thought of saying “A 6.x? It might be a pre-shock…” but didn’t. Oh Well. One set of prescience points down the tube ;-)

ANY time there’s an out of the blue 5-6.x quake, it can be a pre-shock to the main event. Make sure your “quake kit” is outside and your water storage is full. Keep things that way for a week or so. (Long time readers here will remember me saying things like “Checking my quake kit and preparedness stuff” after some 6.x quake somewhere on the West Coast. That’s why.

WHERE this quake is located worries me. That’s a spreading zone / rift zone. Usually we get a sliding motion along the San Andreas and related faults. Essentially the Pacific plates moving north / North America plate moving south, relative to each other. There’s been a long duration of quiet on those plates at that boundary. Now this.

This is not a “sliding sideways” zone, it is a ripping apart zone. IF the plate motions have changed direction, that could be a Really Big Deal. For one thing, there’s a set of mountains near where I grew up, the Sutter Buttes
that WERE a 6000 foot tall volcano that just popped up through the broad flat central valley floor. Nowhere near all “the usual” volcanic features and mountains. For decades I wondered “Why there?”. Eventually (after a few geology classes) found out that California moves sort of in blocks. The spreading zone from the Gulf of California up through the (below sea level) Salton Sea / Death Valley / Owens Valley etc. eventually at about Mono Lake / Lake Tahoe hits one of those block edges and runs back to the coast (where it picks up again and eventually merges into that Cascadia Fault Zone that will eventually destroy Seattle and Portland…)

Those block edges are presently held closed by the sliding pressure of the plates in opposite directions. This is also why volcanoes down near L.A. (out into the Mojave) have not popped up. (But DID in the past tens of thousands of years ago).

IF (and it is a very big IF) the pressure N/S on those blocks has slackened and we are in more of an unzip rifting motion now, we can get (as we have had before in geologic history…) volcanoes anywhere along that line up from the Salton Sea to Lake Tahoe, along the block edges through the Sutter Buttes area (and The Geysers / Geyserville over by the coast in trendy Napa Wine Country…)

It has been about 6 million years since the Buttes formed, and they have eroded down to about 2000 feet now, so it isn’t like this is a common feature. You MUST keep geologic time in mind thinking about this stuff. It might never happen again, ever. OTOH, were it starting Right Now, we might not notice for a few thousand more years. (Or it could start smoking tomorrow…)

IIRC, the last volcano in the area east of Los Angeles (on the road to Phoenix) was about 9,000 years ago. (Just yesterday by geologic scales). Further north, Mount Lassen popped off about 1914 and Mt. Shasta grew a big cinder cone next to it (that you can see from the freeway as it goes right past it) at the same 9,000 years ago time:

The point being that IF (again, a very big IF) we transitioned from compression N/S on those E/W blocks that make up California into some kind of torque or worse, rifting along that rift line: This State can pop and has popped volcanoes from Los Angeles up the length and even in the Central Valley and including places like Lassen and Shasta.

These are NOT extinct volcanoes. (Heck, not even dormant, really. 9000 years is, in geologic time scales “happening now”…)

So getting 7 sized quakes in the rifting valleys area is a big deal. IMHO.

While I HOPE it is just settling of some strike / slip block and “nothing unusual”, if it starts to be a pattern, well…. then you start a smokers and volcanoes watch.

FWIW I’d expect Mexican volcanoes in the Gulf of California area to show more activity as a precursor event. Their’s are generally more active and recent, and I’d expect them to get more active and “do something” first in a renewal of rifting.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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47 Responses to California Quakes & Volcanoes

  1. jim2 says:

    If eruption continue apace for 2019, it will be a record year at 108.

  2. jim2 says:

    Could the surprising decrease in Antarctic ice be due to a rise of magma there?

  3. E.M.Smith says:


    It takes about 18 years for equatorial Pacific water to reach the Bering Strait. I’d expect a similar thing with reaching the Southern Ocean / Antarctica.

    So let’s see… We had a really warm spike about 1999… 1999+18= 2017 and then the ice started to melt…. Hmmm…..

    Could it be hot water venting from volcanoes? Sure. Or just a lot more activity at the mid-ocean ridges. Note that Antarctica is surrounded by one (rarely talked about, but there it is…)

  4. jim2 says:

    I was referring specifically to the sub-glacial volcanoes:

    If there is an increase in volcanic activity in general, that might also include those in Antarctica. Of course, as you point out, multiple factors can be at play.

  5. jim2 says:

    OK, it appears the accelerated ice loss is taking place in EAST Antarctica. But due to the circumpolar current, the heat could be transported from the Western part.

  6. Ossqss says:

    Here is a tidbit I read a while back.

    I do recall reading about the erratic behavior over the last year or so of some geysers also.

  7. jim2 says:

    Here is a paper on the Antarctic Circumpolar Wave, superimposed on the circumpolar current. This paper identifies 3 factors that contribute to the wave. Volcanism was not one of them.

  8. Larry Ledwick says:

    An image map of the San Andreas fault system. Note that the location of the recent earthquake is just north west of Palmdale just below the kink that locks the southern end of the fault zone.

    There is a whole complex of faults not just a single fault but the bend in the trend of those faults combine to make that southern end of the faulting more difficult to move than the northern straighter sections so it tends to move more violently and less frequently.


  9. Skeptic says:

    But how is this Trump’s fault? Come on; AOC, Harris, Booker etc need an answer.

  10. Bob K says:

    Here is how it is Trump’s fault.
    Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake is right in the quake zone. Trump is having the navy test the future possibility of California “accidentally” sliding into the sea.

  11. philjourdan says:

    @Bob K – California IS sliding into the sea. Trump is merely pulling up the anchor. :-)

  12. Another Ian says:

    @BobK – we don’t need it washing up on the east Australian coast thanks

    Also quake related

    “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”

    Click on the photo to get to the link

  13. Larry Ledwick says:

    Cool animation of the earthquake series showing how the quake epicenters relate to each other both in the time domain and locations.
    (if you hit the translate tweet to see the english translation )
    Incredible Sequence of Earthquakes in California, interactive image made by Caltech from July 5th to July 7th 2019.

  14. Larry Ledwick says:

    Really interesting 40 minute long video on the earth quake swarm in southern California and he also discusses its relation ship to the old volcanic features in California near the earthquakes.

  15. Larry Ledwick says:

    If you want to chew up a few days watching videos here is his video channel.

  16. tom0mason says:

    Of course the other problem with the increase in seismic event is that there may be a major quake somewhere like Gulf of Alaska. Just a year ago (Jan 24 2018) the West coast of Canada and USA were on tsunami warnings when a 7.9 struck in the Gulf of Alaska.

    [Jan 24 2018] The U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami for the entire western coasts of U.S. and Canada early Tuesday morning following a magnitude 7.9 earthquake off the coast of Alaska near small city of Kodiak. (Image: USNTWC)

  17. Larry Ledwick says:

    And of course we must have some earthquake humor here:

    Girl doing a video on makeup (lipstick) as the earthquake hits.

  18. Larry Ledwick says:

    Looks like in the Mojave desert there was a couple feet of vertical motion along the fracture line.
    Fissure Visible in Desert After Earthquakes in Southern California

    Raw video from KTLA’s Sky5 shows a fissure running along the Mojave Desert floor on the morning of July 6, 2019, a day after a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck near Ridgecrest. Details on the quake:

    Raw video from KTLA’s Sky5

  19. Ossqss says:

    I hope all the quakes stop. Otherwise all those folks will be moving here!

    We had a significant amount of energy released in 2ndary faults. 20 years since something as significant.

    People sleeping in the front yards as a result?

    This is geology, kinda like climate, but much slower. I will leave it there.

  20. Bill in Oz says:

    Larry thanks for the footage of the Lip stick quake video..
    Kinda shows exactly what is important

    Meanwhile I am glad I live in boring South Australia where we hardly ever have a rumble never mind a 7.1 jolter with aftershocks !

  21. Larry Ledwick says:

    animation of the ripple of earth quake energy from the 7.1 in California move across the US seismic network as the P and S waves travel across the continent.

  22. Larry Ledwick says:

    Two items from twitter

    Damage photos on Edwards AFB showing lateral displacement of roadway.

    Animation of the time progression of the quake series.

    Reminds me of watching a windshield crack grow over a couple days time.

  23. E.M.Smith says:


    Some time after a Great Quake in Alaska, my Dad and I took a long “togetherness” camping trip in a 53 Dodge Pickup with Wooden Camper. Along the way, we went through Crescent City (on the north California coast) that had been hit with a big tsunami from a quake in Alaska….

    One of my earliest “awareness moments” per California, Alaska, Quakes, and Tsunami.

    @Larry L:

    This series of quakes is moving toward th Garlock fault system.

    Little understood, it runs “sideways” under the mountains north of Los Angeles.

    My unsupported opinion it that it marks one of those block boundaries where the sperical nature of our planet makes adjustments for the apparent linear motion of the north / south San Andreas and others as the Plates Turn…

    Nobody really knows what will happen when the Garlock Fault ruptures, but it will not be good.

  24. Larry Ledwick says:

    A bit more – new video update from
    Published on Jul 7, 2019

    dutchsinse update Jul 7, 2019

  25. jim2 says:

    Something that’s been on my mind. I recall reading that one could hold a cup of “sun stuff” in hands and it would be about as warm as a cup of coffee. The Sun gets so hot because its huge size traps that heat and as it can’t escape very quickly, the temperature goes way high.

    So, could it be that the increase in neutrons hitting the Earth due to the solar minimum causes a greater fission rate of natural uranium, and due to the large mass of the Earth, magma gets incrementally hotter, thus causing more seismic activity?

  26. John F. Hultquist says:

    a kind of a line down from near Lake Tahoe ==> The Walker Lane

    Wired magazine
    18 April 2019

    Move Over, San Andreas: There’s an Ominous New Fault in Town
    Author:  Geoff Manaugh

  27. Larry Ledwick says:

    Interesting little article on what may lay in California’s future.

    Walker Lane is the northward extension of the approximate line of earth quake in this recent series.

  28. agimarc says:

    The San Andreas and Walker Lane are the next steps in the process that opened the Gulf of California and separated the Baja from Mexico proper. It is only sediments from the Colorado River system that is keeping the area north of the Gulf of California from filling with sea water. Disagree with the Wired writer about the volcanic activity. It is not the volcanoes that weaken the crust. Rather it is the extension of the crust that allows the magma to reach the surface. And this part of North America has been in extension since the Farallon Plate finished subducting and the motion of the Pacific Plate became strike-slip along the west coast. There’s a lot of recent volcanic activity in and next to the Baja. There is a lot of it in California along the Walker Lane. Cheers –

  29. Larry Ledwick says:

    While poking around for earthquake info someone on twitter ran across this on the China Lake Naval test center grounds.,-117.604943,157m/data=!3m1!1e3

    Come on Navy clean up your mess when your are done playing ;)

  30. l says:

    Ground verification of ground shift motion

  31. Larry Ledwick says:

    Try this again last post vaporized

    Ground truth verification of lateral motion from the California quake.

  32. E.M.Smith says:

    The bottom of Death Valley is about 7000 feet below sea level. It is filled with rubble from the surrounding mountains. It is still below sea level at the surface (and was a lake some few thousand years ago… and will be again…).

    So spreading is happening all the way from the Gulf of California to about Mono Lake (near Lake Tahoe…) and WILL continue. Look at the map of spreading ocean ridges in the global map in this comment above:

    Notice the two bits sticking out of California. One in the Gulf of California, the other off the North Coast. That ridge STILL EXISTS under California and IS pulling the State apart. Eventually there will be a big island off the coast of Nevada.

    So yes, the Colorado River did deposit the Grand Canyon debris in the Gulf Of California (making all that part from the Salton Sea up to the Mojave) and some day it will return there again. (In about 1908 it tried, and the result was the Salton Sea)

    But eventually that spreading ridge will win, Death Valley and all points south will become part of the Gulf of California, and then we’ll find out if that zone of weakness where an east west fault let the Sutter Buttes pop up is still weak enough for the State to slice off there, or if the “cut” angles more across the valley taking more of the central valley with it… In a few millions or 10s of millions of years… so maybe we won’t find out, but someone will… even if we’ve evolved into a new species by then…

    Basically, the block between the San Andreas and where the ridge is opening up Death Valley is a floating block on top of the action. West of the San Andreas, it is all Pacific Plate sliding north and pushing a bit East. East of Death Valley, it is all North America plate, being uplifted a bit by the subduction of the Farallon plate (now almost 100% complete) and sort of rotating with the edge going a little southward. in between is this big lump of “crap” scraped up off the ocean bottom as the two collided and piled up like cracking grease blobs between the two. All the fault lines is just us admiring the cracks in this muck between those two giant grinding wheels while we ignore the ridge (that HAD BEEN in the ocean until that muck got scraped up / piled up) working to pull it all apart.

  33. Larry Ledwick says:

    Here is today’s update for dutchsinse’s analysis of the California earthquakes. Video is 1:09 long.
    After you watch 2 -3 of his updates you get a grasp of how he views earthquakes and it makes a lot of sense to me. He sort of applies a Kirchhoff’s Law type node and path analysis to the earthquake energy and after figuring out how the earth plates move and release energy he looks up stream of the area of interest to see what energy is flowing into the zone and down stream to see how much energy has been passed on down stream on the plate boundaries to estimate what might happen next.

  34. Larry Ledwick says:

    Wow California has been rocking the last few hours, lots and lots of small earthquakes.
    Dutchsinse is still thinking it needs to have one more big shake to bleed off all the energy that have come into the system in the last couple days.

    38min ago
    36.08 N 117.88 W 2 2.7 CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
    2019-07-15 00:33:57.3
    40min ago
    35.92 N 117.74 W 3 2.1 CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
    2019-07-15 00:32:56.4
    41min ago
    36.07 N 117.85 W 2 2.2 CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
    2019-07-15 00:29:47.5
    44min ago
    36.07 N 117.85 W 2 2.4 CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
    2019-07-15 00:18:51.8
    55min ago
    36.07 N 117.84 W 2 2.0 CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
    2019-07-15 00:16:18.2
    57min ago
    35.69 N 117.55 W 3 2.5 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
    2019-07-15 00:15:26.2
    58min ago
    36.07 N 117.84 W 3 2.1 CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
    2019-07-14 23:27:43.8
    1hr 46min ago
    35.95 N 117.74 W 2 2.0 CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
    2019-07-14 23:15:55.1
    1hr 58min ago
    36.09 N 117.87 W 4 3.1 CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
    2019-07-14 23:01:34.9
    2hr 12min ago
    35.98 N 117.35 W 2 2.4 CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
    2019-07-14 22:43:58.6
    2hr 30min ago
    36.07 N 117.83 W 2 2.1 CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
    2019-07-14 22:38:05.8
    2hr 35min ago
    35.59 N 117.38 W 6 3.4 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
    2019-07-14 22:36:29.1
    2hr 37min ago
    35.65 N 117.46 W 0 2.0 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
    2019-07-14 22:29:35.0
    2hr 44min ago
    35.61 N 117.47 W 2 2.9 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
    2019-07-14 22:21:21.0
    3hr 00min ago
    36.05 N 117.85 W 2 2.1 CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
    2019-07-14 22:09:34.0
    3hr 04min ago
    36.07 N 117.83 W 3 2.3 CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
    2019-07-14 22:01:45.9
    3hr 12min ago
    35.62 N 117.43 W 1 2.5 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
    2019-07-14 22:00:29.7
    3hr 13min ago
    35.87 N 117.46 W 6 2.1 CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
    2019-07-14 21:55:19.7
    3hr 18min ago
    35.92 N 117.74 W 3 2.0 CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
    2019-07-14 21:37:08.6
    3hr 36min ago
    35.92 N 117.74 W 3 2.0 CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
    2019-07-14 21:26:24.6
    3hr 47min ago
    35.87 N 117.70 W 6 2.0 CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

  35. Larry Ledwick says:

    Above extracted from here :

    All those small quakes concentrated in the same area that has been clustering for the last few days.

  36. E.M.Smith says:

    @Larry L:

    After any big quake, you get a LOT of minor quakes as things settle in. It doesn’t mean much.

    Sometimes you get a swarm of little ones just before a big one. That does mean a lot.

    There’s no way to tell which you have ;-)

    Most worrisome is when you have NO quakes for a very long time… OR when you have a medium-big (like 5.5 or 6.2) preceded by nothing much and than all quiet after it. That usually seems to indicate a locked fault nearing the breaking point, starting to let go. Most Great Quakes seem to have one or two of those in the preceding months / year.

    Realistically, once you have your 7.x Badge, you kind of stop worrying. It is very unlikely you will be in anything bigger again, you know the 7ish wasn’t that bad, and everything smaller is irrelevant… So I basically don’t even notice 5s anymore. Shame, really, as they used to be a bit of fun…

    That said:

    It’s a certainty that Los Angeles will get a devastating Great Quake (think high 7s to low 8 ) and it ought to happen any time now. The stresses are all there and the historical pattern met.

    Similarly, while the San Andreas has relieved stress up north in the Loma Prieta quake, the history is that the Hayward Calaveras system (Oakland / Berkeley) usually “goes” a few years / couple of decades around the San Andreas; so there’s good reason to expect it to move.

    But these things are not clockworks. They are chaotic rock breakage events. So any pattern will eventually be broken.

    There have been a few studies showing a big quake in one area transfers stress to another and it beaks next (often years or a decade + later). First seen in a beautiful line of quakes moving across Asia, Turkey, Italy, etc… So when one area goes, things further down the line are usually in the batters box…

  37. l says:

    Yes understand that – what Dutchsinse is worried about is the actual pattern of quake development.
    He has worked out how that progression process works and based on input of energy from upstream (the northern part of the Pacific rim of fire) he feels there is enough energy to give one more good shake in the system if it does not start bleeding it off down stream (south central US).

    The earthquake swarm near Ridge Crest where the most recent activity happened has done something interesting. It has been swarming along a line about 65 miles long and shortly after the quakes it went fairly quiet then over the last couple days the activity has been increasing both in number and intensity.

    Since 7/11/19 they have had 596 quakes in the area of Ridge Crest and they are persisting at 2’s and low 3’s magnitude not tapering off in intensity, and continuing to swarm in the same tight area along a clear line.

    Will have to wait and see how it develops, but so far not much of any release down stream where the quake energy usually moves as the stress progresses through the crust plate boundaries.

  38. Larry Ledwick says:

    Typo name – grrrrrr

  39. jim2 says:

    Dutchsinse Youtube videos are down. Comments indicate fear of censorshit.

  40. E.M.Smith says:

    So I guess Dutchsinse will be showing up on BitChute in 3, 2, 1, … ;-)

    YouTobe seems to be doing an amazing job of growing BitChute business …

    I just wish BitChute had a better search function and an easy embed code option.

    @Larry or “L” ;-)

    If you want a nice worry about energy patterns, historically when a Great Quake hits Japan, in a dozen or two years later a Great Quake hits in the PNW / Cascadia area. We had a Great Quake at Fukushima a few years back…

    I have no idea what the strength is of the correlation study on this, but it looks like once one side of the N. Pacific plate lets go in a big one, the other side adjusts to the pressures too.

    So I’d be more worried about Seattle / Portland and related than about a swarm of minor quakes on the spreading zone of So.Cal. Say it pops a 5.5 or even a 6.1: Who will care? A couple of liquor stores inside a 20 mile radius and the local news show will have something to lead with…

    So yeah, a lot of fun to watch, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it. (Literally…)

  41. Larry Ledwick says:

    Anyone interested Dutchsinse just started his 7/15/19 video segment
    1:48 long
    7/15/19 video segment

  42. E.M.Smith says:

    I find that he talks a lot, but doesn’t say much definitively. Covers a lot of dinky stuff, then claims a hit for predicting it using a rubber ruler. (Predicted a 4 inside date window, found a couple of 3.x a day late….)

    I can confidently predict a 2.x within 50 miles of the San Andreas… but it is rather like predicting sunrise…

    Call out a 6.5 to 7.5 a week in advance in a small area, you’ve got something. Predict a 5.x next month in California, you are predicting water will be wet…

    I’d rather he talked half as fsst, said 1/4 as much, and just showed real ability and understanding. Instead, it is a long series of rapid rambling… IMHO, of course.

    Entertaining, though.

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