Monday, February 27, 2012

More Activity at Salton Sea (Salton Buttes) California

The Salton Sea is shaking. Over the last few weeks, many very shallow tremors have been occurring on the fault line that runs through this SE California farming town. The largest events so far have been around 3.5 in magnitude, and are clustering on the SE shore of the Salton Sea, just East, and overlapping, the Salton Buttes; lava domes that were extruded along this spreading fault line some 5,000 years ago.

The Salton Sea is home to a geothermal power plant, as well as having the unfortunate location of being right on top of a spreading rift that includes the Cerro Prieto volcanic center, near where the Easter 2010 Southern California quake struck, shaking San Diego County and Mexico with a 7.2 magnitude quake.

The region has shown many quakes since the 7.2 quake, most of these fault stress adjustments and minor slippage events. It is likely that Southern California will experience heightened seismicity for decades. This is actually good for Southern California since tectonic stresses are being released slowly. When quakes stop in this area, it's time to worry about another big one like the Easter quake. Fortunately for Californians, our buildings are built to withstand up to a magnitude 8.0 quake with little to no damage. The same cannot be said for the majority of Baja California and Tecate, which experienced heavy damage from that quake.

As the Salton Buttes are classified by CalVO as an extreme risk for future eruption, the general consensus seems to be that volcanic activity in the area is expected in the future, however the area is currently not monitored by CalVO. It is for that reason that I'm planning to go to the area to look for myself to see if there is anything strange like gas fissures, plant kill, or heightened activity of the various mud volcanoes in the area. Other indicators of rising magma could be dying fish in the lake, however that's actually pretty common since the lake is one of the most polluted on the planet.

The Salton Sea is surrounded by agriculture, and ghost towns, where abandoned cars and other vehicles, as well as garbage and toxic waste, were carelessly tossed into the Salton Sea. The agriculture activity is responsible for a lot of the pollutants and toxins in the lake. It is common to see dead fish and other animal life on the shores of this lake. Locals would probably rather starve than eat the fish out of that lake. So dead fish int he lake would not be a good indicator of activity, unless an extraordinary amount of fish ended up washing to shore.

In any case, I hope to have some pictures and direct observations of this area soon... gas has now climbed to an astonishing $4.59 a gallon for 87 octane and is expected to rise sharply in the coming days/weeks. So if you'd really like to see some firsthand pictures, video, etc, please do feel free to toss me a couple of bucks on my Google Donate button, which will go directly to this planned trip. I'll probably end up going anyway, but it would make a difference to me if the readers of this blog chipped in for the trip... there is something going on out there that hasn't happened in a while, and I, like you, am quite curious. 


  1. I just discovered this blog and find it very interesting. I also live in S. Cali and several years ago came up with a theory and I wonder if you think it might be possible. Baja Cali is pulling away from the rest of Mexico and the oceans are rising (climate warming) some day the Sea of Cortez will go all the way almost to Palm Springs Ca. I have a feeling this will happen sooner than later. There is almost nothing to stop it now. What do you think?

  2. Hi Rod.

    The scenario you are describing will happen over the course of millions of years. The Sea Of Cortez is a part of the spreading rift that eventually turns into the Rio Grande rift, which makes up a large part of middle USA. The upper part, the West Coast of the USA, is moving North at the rate of around 1-2 CM a year (about the rate of your fingernail growing). It is nothing that humans would ever notice, and certainly nothing to worry about. This is the normal motion of tectonic plates.

    Here is a neat link to a paper on the subject should you like to read it :)


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