Q: Do small earthquakes prevent larger earthquakes from occurring?
- Laurie F
A: There is an argument to that effect within the earthquake research community. Theoretically, a series of small events might accommodate (re-equilibrate, redistribute) at least some of the strain being built up by tectonic forces. In the practical world this works only imperfectly. For instance, we know:
2....that waste water injection into oil wells north of Denver, CO, led to a significant cluster of micro-earthquakes. Apparently the fluid lubricated fault surfaces that were collecting strain. There wasn't a lot of energy released by this process, but it caused earthquake scientists to sit up and listen.
2....that there are "slow slip" earthquakes on subduction faults that cannot normally be felt, but are only "seen" by noting slow displacement changes in continually-recording GPS instruments. An example of this has been measured in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, and another example has been observed on the south coast of the Big Island of Hawai'i.