California Floods To Trigger "The Big One"? - Geologists Warn Of Quake Risks From Snowpack, Rising Reservoirs

Tyler Durden's picture

For years geologists have warned that Southern California is overdue for "The Big One", a massive 8.0 or greater earthquake that would undoubtedly cause unprecedented death and destruction in several heavily populated urban centers sprinkled along the San Andreas Fault line. 

While predicting earthquakes remains an uncertain science, there has been concern in recent years among experts that the San Andreas fault may be close to a new, major ruction if only by virtue of the length of time since it happened last, when the southern portion of the fault was struck by a 7.9 shaker all the way back in 1857.

Since then the tectonic plates that meet at the fault have been continuously on the move at a rate of about 2 inches per year. That means that over 159 years there has been a shift of 26 feet as the Pacific plate moves in a northwesterly direction against the American continental plate.  Every additional inch creates additional pressures on the rocks beneath the earth’s surface that builds and builds until it eventually snaps.

San Andreas


Now, as the Los Angeles Times points out, the recent flooding in California has prompted some scientists to raise concerns over whether or not Californians are at a greater risk of being struck by an imminent quake.  According to geologists, flooding can cause earthquakes in one of two ways: i) the sheer weight of rising reservoirs and snowpack causes tectonic plates to shift and/or ii) increasing pressure created from the refilling of underground water basins pushes plates apart, therefore reducing friction and allowing the earth's crust to shift.

There are two ways a reservoir can cause an earthquake. A rapid filling or emptying of a lake can change the weight pushing on a fault, which can make an earthquake more likely, said Bill Leith, acting associate director on natural hazards at the USGS.


“Especially for a reservoir as large as Oroville, it’s a huge weight on the crust that’s basically being pulled up and down on an annual cycle. So it wouldn’t be surprising if there were earthquakes associated with that,” Leith said. “The rapid filling, I just think it increases the risk. … I would expect that a rapid rise or a rapid fall in the water level would be much more likely to trigger earthquakes.”


The second way a reservoir can cause an earthquake is from added pressure. Water trickling deep into the earth can increase pressure underground that makes it easier for faults to move, according to seismologist Lucy Jones.


“The pressure in the water sort of pushes the fault back apart,” Jones said. The added water pressure underground essentially unclamps a fault — like loosening a vice that keeps two blocks of rocks stuck together — in a way that makes it easier for the earth to move.


It can take years for water to filter down into the deep crevices of the earth and add fluid pressure around the fault, Leith said. The dramatic fluctuation in reservoir levels in 1975 may have been the trigger point for the earthquake that year.

As proof of the added risk from flooding, geologists point to a series of earthquakes that occurred around Lake Oroville in the mid-70s after an urgent dam repair required a rapid draining and subsequent refilling of the reservoir.

Lake Oroville had been filled before. What made the winter of 1974-75 unusual was that water levels had to be reduced to their lowest level since the reservoir was first filled to repair intakes to the hydroelectric power plant.


Months later, there was an unprecedented refilling of the lake that ended in June 1975.


Then the earthquakes started.


Instead of fewer than five earthquakes a month in a zone within 25 miles from the dam, as had been the case for the previous year, June and July suddenly saw more than 10 earthquakes each month.


Then the largest earthquake in the sequence hit: a magnitude 5.7 on Aug. 1, 1975. It was strong enough to crack plaster and walls in Oroville and was felt as far away as San Francisco and Sacramento, where the Capitol’s dome suffered minor damage. The 50-person staff of Treasurer Jesse Unruh was ordered to evacuate its office.


That August became a banner month for earthquakes around Oroville Dam — more than 3,000 temblors were recorded, before fading to more than 700 a month later and over 100 by October.



Of course, in reality water levels at Lake Oroville fluctuate substantially pretty much every year with snow melt generally filling the reservoir from February through July followed by reductions as water is shipped to the drier southern regions of California.  That said, it's difficult to argue that this year's recharge was fairly unprecedented in its volume and speed.



So what say you?  Fake news or time to start prepping for doomsday?

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Don Sunset's picture

What a bunch of crap!

Darktarra's picture

I can't think of a more deserving state as Crashafornia! 

philipat's picture

That Global warming that produces all those droughts is a bitch isn't it?

1980XLS's picture

I hope the entire Libtard/snowflake establishment falls into the Fukushima Ocean

Pinto Currency's picture

Hundreds of trillions of tonnes of rock.
Small lakes or snowpack don't register.

Some speculate a correlation between HAARP operation and earthquakes. Unclear, but HAARP is starting up again after 3 years down.

NordikAvenger's picture

The second way a reservoir can cause an earthquake is from added pressure. Water trickling deep into the earth can increase pressure underground that makes it easier for faults to move,according to seismologist Lucy Jones.

“The pressure in the water sort of pushes the fault back apart,” Jones said. The added water pressure underground essentially unclamps a fault — like loosening a vice that keeps two blocks of rocks stuck together — in a way that makes it easier for the earth to move.

This is basic physics here and has been demonstrated in repeated experiments by the fracking industry to lead to small scale earthquakes in tornado country.  What makes you think it doesn't happen in a relatively deep water laden fault?

Some people here are really science illiterate.


Pinto Currency's picture

Add a few feet of water to many miles of rock or water column.

Chris Dakota's picture
Chris Dakota (not verified) Pinto Currency Mar 3, 2017 8:49 PM

I told you guys a year ago the 1989  7.0 quake in San Francisco was after a drought then a bunch of rain.

I said at the time, is the water lubrication helping it to break loose and even erosioin on what is hanging it up.

I was worried about last years drought then La Nina.

Pinto Currency's picture

Drought is a surface phenomenon.

prime american's picture
prime american (not verified) Pinto Currency Mar 4, 2017 4:13 AM

I'm making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do...

bunnyswanson's picture

Correlationbetween United Nations and World Bank Restoring Environmental Impact Dam Removal Projector as I like to call it, The Repo Man  These links disappear from social media and this is only one I can find.  Saving fish but ignoring a nuclear meltdown in progress, protecting sharks while watching the healthiest and vigorous being eaten alive, save the air while spewing millions of trails from jets on a daily basis for year, go green but see a mailbox filled with paper products every goddam day which you never really even read.  It's a war of the psyop sort.

TDK's picture

It's predicted to increase unusual and extreme weather events, and is paying it exactly as predicted... You guys will be eating stove pretty big humble pie in a few decades.

Plus, why would you believe the Oil companies vs The scientists?

Maxter's picture

Never trust a "scientist" involved in politic or trying to prove a point. That is against their very definition.

philipat's picture

And there are many independent scientists who argue that the data has been fixed to goalseek results. The bottom line is that there is no categorical evidence in support of MAN MADE Global warming. In fact, the Libtards had to change the name from "Global warming" to "Climate change" because the global temperature is, in fact, not rising over the past 2 decades but FALLING.

As for the "risks", I can live with those thanks, especially if I don't have to pay thousands of Dollars a year in fake carbon taxes to further enrich Al Gore and the rest of the involved oligarchs.

TDK's picture

well, you will be proved so wrong it's actually depressing. 

Even big oil admit it is happening

Problem is it tears down the whole world on the way

fattail's picture

The planet has been much warmer with much higher concentrations of carbon dioxide before.  All that happened was life flourished.

TDK's picture

Cool, how do you know this?

user2011's picture

washington dc..New york(wall street)

NordikAvenger's picture

Really?  Physics is crap?  You couldn't stand up to the guy in an argument if you faced him.  

pilager's picture

I do my part, only fill my red solo cup up half way as not to aid extra weight.

Pinto Currency's picture

Nordvik - if you add a few meters of water to a water column kilometers deep, you are not going to affect the head generated. The fracking industry drills new holes then hydraulically pressurize those holes - that is a completely different situation.

pilager's picture

Pfffft. ... like to many people on one side of the island will make it turn over. 

Mr. Schmilkies's picture

Please don't trigger California.  Oh wait, already is.

Ignatius's picture

Empty all California reservoirs now!!  Otherwise it'll be a "Catastrophic Earthquake Frequency Change."

Somebody, write a Research Grant, stat!  And get the IPCC on the phone!

divingengineer's picture

But not too fast, or "catastrophic earthquake frequency change".

Implied Violins's picture

Jeebus. Guess I should flush after every beer instead of after every six-pack. I don't need my crack to get any wider.

south40_dreams's picture

Spread the word around south central, the best method of survival is to head for the hills, the mansions of Hollywood Hills! Lots of celebrities to welcome them with open

HRH Feant's picture
HRH Feant (not verified) Mar 3, 2017 6:45 PM

I remember hearing Jim Berkland talking about how large movements of water can cause EQs many years ago. He was a former USGS employee that didn't really speak up about his theory until he retired. He went on to develop a theory about how the moon and tidal flows can create earthquakes. Water is extremely heavy. What is the one thing that impacts the daily movement of water twice a day? The moon.

I always thought that Berkland's premise was theoretically sound. Not yet proven but sound.

Consuelo's picture



Miss the guy.   He used to be a regular on Barbara Simpson's show many years back in the Bay Area.   Decent fellow.

keep the bastards honest's picture

Earthquakes increase with low solar activity. So seismic events are increasing, many many more this last few months and many very deep... 400 km and deeper. 

If you live in an earthquake zone and are worried find dutchsinse for earthquake forecasts. He forecasts a few days  ahead, place and magnitude.  youtube has given him hell eating his recorded videos. 10 pm central updates . truly free news (free news equals alt and 'fake'). depends on donations.

The fracking breaks in the crust allow some pressure release on the way to  the New Madrid. Thats why they have had it easy so far. Cascadia is the big  fun one.

CHoward's picture

Dutchsinse still has a video on YouTube and sometimes live streams too.  You can also follow him on if you're interested.  He's very good.

L Bean's picture

Don't worry kids, God's just doing some fracking.

stant's picture

Hope not , don't want them coming here

Son of Loki's picture

I'll wait for Meryl Streep to tell me what to think.

TheFederalistPapers's picture

I guess after the Big One all this talk of succession will cease and CA will be seeking Federal Emergency Disaster Funds.  


Naw, fuck 'em...

not dead yet's picture

Actually we should be building the fence right now, but in a different place. We need to wall off California so those ignorant full of themselves libtards can't infest the rest of the country when they panic and run when the big one hits. First I would give money to the santuary cities in California and cut funding to those in the rest of the country. That way all the illegals will flock to Cali to make life miserable for the illegal lovers and they can all go swimming together when Cali falls into the sea.

shimmy's picture

I'm just waiting for the climate change freaks to blame global warming for it.

sheikurbootie's picture

They should've voted for Trump.  No funds for you!!!!


MuffDiver69's picture

Sad thing is that area is Trump country..The parasites,as usual, live in the cities..

Not a good situation...My bet is a repeat of the seventies...That state will degenerate into a bloodbath when the fault snaps...

Dilluminati's picture

Yeah lets hope that this doesn't happen even in California


aloha_snakbar's picture

But at least they saved the yellow-bellied wetback...

Rehab Willie's picture

Just wait until the snowpack melts.

Ms No's picture

I realize that Phoenix isn't Southern California but we just got dumped on again epic.  Even flag got another foot of snow.  Now we are supposed to be 80 shortly.  It looks like the rest of the snow, which is substantial, will melt quickly, again.

buzzsaw99's picture

i need a safe space waa!!

I've been in truffles since I don't know when

I'm in truffles now and I know somehow I'll find truffles again...

[/dirty white truffle hog]

wisehiney's picture

That's what happens when you get too many snowflakes.

Fascal rascal's picture
Fascal rascal (not verified) Mar 3, 2017 6:53 PM

Run Forrest, run!!!

Oh sorry...

Correr Forrest, correr!!!


Wishful thinking IMHO.

farmerbraun's picture

But but , a massive earthquake would be yuuge for economic activity. Think of the GDP.


Make America grate  ... again!