Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Golden Trout Creek Volcanic Field Experiences More Earthquakes

The quake swarm at Golden Trout Creek in California has added several new tremors today in what is looking more and more like magma dike intrusion. The quake area (as shown in a previous post) is less than a mile away from two separate hot springs; Joran Hot Springs, less than 1 mile from the swarm area, and a thermal area to the West of the quake region (or what appears to be one on satellite). The quakes started out at depths of around 8KM, and in the course of one day have progressed to a magnitude 2.3 at a depth of 3.8KM.

There were four magnitude 2.0 or greater quakes today in the area, with many smaller tremblors dotting the area. Aside from the obvious trend in quakes getting shallower, the area being very near thermal hot springs begs the question, "Is this Pleistocene/early Holocene volcanic center having a magma intrusion"? My guess at this point is yes, however the newly minted CalVO (Formerly LVO) has yet to publish any analysis. This area does have active fault lines, and it could be that this is only tectonic, however the area is known for at least 4 monogenetic cinder cones, and a random cone building event may not be out of the question.

I do try not to speculate, as many other bloggers have done, in the name of good journalism and science, but the trend is starting to look very convincing.

Image from Google Earth with USGS overlay detailing the location, magnitude, and depth of the most recent quake. 
If this does turn out to be an eruption (keep in mind, if this is magma, it still has around a mile or so to go before it breaches the surface), it would be the first in California in nearly a century. The last eruption of any kind occurred at the Lassen Volcanic Complex in Northern California in 1915, when one of the Sierra Nevada range volcanoes entered into a two year long eruptive cycle. To my knowledge, that is the only eruption in California you can actually find (black and white) pictures for.

This could easily turn out to be nothing, and the area is so remote, people would not be in harm's way whatsoever. If anything, this might turn out to be a nice tourist attraction for thrill seekers, much like the tourist who flew to Iceland during the April 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajokull (I'm too lazy right now for the umlauts, sorry Nords!). This would be pretty great for California, as my home state depends heavily on tourism for a lot of its revenue. However, wishful thinking does not an eruption make, and only time will tell.

 *****UPDATE 2/15/2012*****

A 2.3 magnitude quake occurred today at a depth of only 3.8KM (*2.36 mi) indicating a strong, and rising source of seismicity. If more quakes occur in the same location at even shallower depths, I would start thinking that this is definitely volcanic related activity.

*****UPDATE 2/24/2012*****

Another round of tremors hit the same region today, this time at a LOWER depth of 8.0 km (down from 5.0). Three quakes ranging from mag 1.7-2.1 occurred within a 24 hour period in the same location as the previous quakes.

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