Thursday, May 21, 2015

Nice Quake Swarm At Salton Buttes Volcano

Well it looks like a little bit of action is happening just East of my hometown of San Diego, as a vigorous quake swarm is occurring at the Salton Buttes volcanic field at California's Salton Sea. The largest quake is a magnitude 4.1 quake, with two others registering 3.3. The shallow depth of about 3.5km suggests this is probably tectonic, but it is too early to know, and USGS does not issue frequent updates on CALVO's website.

Google Earth snapshot with USGS Real-Time Quake overlay.

The quakes in general range from about 6km depth to 3km depth. While it is unlikely that this is a magma intrusion, due to the location of the faults, its not impossible. The area is highly geothermal, and much of the areas electricity is generated from geothermal energy plants. Boiling mud volcanoes also exist and have been active for some time.

Image of Salton Sea Mud Volcanoes (date and photographer unknown)

According to the Smithsonian GVP, "A recent partial survey conducted by David K. Lynch and Paul M. Adams of Red Island, previously known as Red Hill, in Southern California, USA, has resulted in the discovery of five steaming hot vents on the SW flank of the northern Salton Buttes volcanic field...
...Until recent work by Lynch and others (2011) and Schmidt and others (2013), the Salton Buttes were thought to have been formed by extruded magma during the late Pleistocene, ~16,000 BP. Age dates for some lavas are now dated to closer to 2,000 BP, much younger than originally understood, bringing closer scrutiny of the Buttes by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) California Volcano Observatory and other agencies concerned with geological threats in California (Lynch and Adams, unpublished draft).."

This is important to note, the Salton Buttes are much younger than previously thought, and indeed, are quite young for a California volcanic system. So quake swarms such as this warrant a bit of vigilance.

No eruption is imminent, and the area is well monitored. But this is certainly an exciting little swarm, and it will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens. Stay tuned.

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