by Yasmeen Hassan

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The snow is finally starting to melt after a long, wet winter, which could be creating the perfect breeding-ground for earthquakes.

“The water can go down the fractures and kind of lubricate the faults and create some earthquakes,” said Dr. Steven Skinner, an associate professor at Sacramento State University.

A group of UC Berkeley seismologists is linking the heavy winter rain and snow to more seismic activity.

READ ALSO: Sierra Shakes With More Than A Dozen Earthquakes

According to experts, the weight of the rain and snow puts pressure on the mountains. As the water begins to run off and dry out, the earth’s crust begins to flex, triggering quakes.

Some of the strongest earthquakes in California

Date Name Magnitude
1906-04-18 San Francisco 7.9 Mw
1857-01-09 Fort Tejon 7.9 Mw
1872-03-26 Lone Pine 7.4–7.9 Mw
1992-06-28 Landers 7.3 Mw
1980-11-08 Eureka 7.3 Mw
1952-07-21 Kern County 7.3 Mw
1927-11-04 Lompoc 7.3 Mw
2010-04-04 Baja California 7.2 Mw
1992-04-25 Cape Mendocino 7.2 Mw
1923-01-22 Humboldt County 7.2 Ms
1892-02-23 Laguna Salada 7.1–7.2 Mw
1999-10-16 Hector Mine 7.1 Mw
1812-12-21 Ventura 7.1 MLa
1812-12-08 San Juan Capistrano 6.9–7.5
1989-10-17 Loma Prieta 6.9 Mw

“These stress changes are just giving it that push over the edge, and makes these faults rupture earlier,” said Christopher Johnson, a researcher with UC Berkeley.

Researchers looked at more than three-thousand earthquakes over a nine-year period. The exceptionally wet winters came with an increase in smaller quakes, and this year, we saw an exceptionally wet winter.

California Precipitation Ranking

Rank and Season Total Precipitation
1. 1982-83 34.38″
2. 2016-17 30.75″
3. 1997-98 30.61″
4. 1994-95 30.51″
5. 1937-38 30.35″
6. 1968-69 28.73″
7. 1940-41 28.48″
8. 1977-78 28.08″
9. 1906-07 28.06″
10. 1951-52 27.25″
*Data not available for 2018-19

“I don’t worry about catastrophes earthquakes and stuff like that. If it happens I’m moving. Out of California. Goodbye,” one resident said.


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