Small quakes shake area near Death Valley


The most powerful temblor struck at 8:53 a.m. and was centered 14 miles north of the tiny Mojave Desert town of Trona, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

A magnitude-3.7 quake hit the same area about 12 minutes earlier, and the 4.1 shaker was followed by a quake with a preliminary magnitude of 3.2, USGS officials said.

As with all earthquakes, there was a 5 percent chance that the temblor was a foreshock to a larger quake, said Kate Hutton, a seismologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Jodi Miller of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said there were no reports of damage or injuries in the sparsely populated region 170 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

There have been a dozen earthquakes of magnitude-3.0 or above in the area since Nov. 25, Hutton said. That included another magnitude-4.1 quake on Sunday.

The region is crossed by several faults and historically has been prone to earthquake swarms due to geothermal activity.

"There's something hot down there and it's heating up water," Hutton said, referring to hot springs and hot underground water.

"One theory is that it's sort of lubricating the fault so it makes earthquake faults more likely."

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