By Daniel Rothberg, July 25th, 2019 – 2:00amIndy Environment: Water & Land
Read the full article here: Earthquakes, Yucca Mountain, and Why Everyone is Talking about the Walker Lane
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Nevada is turning into California. The latest: Earthquakes.
“Without scaring people, we should be quite concerned that we could have a fairly sizable earthquake,” said Jim Faulds, the director of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology.
Two recent Southern California earthquakes shook furniture as far as Las Vegas and have raised questions about the risk of tremors in Nevada. Geologically speaking, the Great Basin is a maze of fault lines, and much of it is still unexplored. Although most associate California with deadly quakes, Nevada is the third most seismically active state (after California and Alaska).
As state geologist, Faulds has spent a lot of time thinking about this issue and was recently featured in a WIRED story that looked at a fault system that extends through Western Nevada.
It is known as Walker Lane.
Walker Lane, Faulds said, accounts for about 20 percent plate motion between the Pacific and North American plates — and it could one day become the main boundary between the plates. But compared to the well-known San Andreas Fault, Walker Lane is disorganized, with smaller faults that make it difficult to assess earthquake risk. What if more than one fault ruptures at once? According to Faulds, there are more questions like that and more research needs to be done.
And there is a Yucca Mountain angle.
The proposed nuclear waste repository sits on the eastern part of the fault system. Last week, Faulds and the director of the Nevada Seismological Lab, wrote to Gov. Steve Sisolak urging more surveying of the area with new technology like LiDAR and new geophysical tools.
“The Walker Lane needs more thorough analysis and Yucca Mountain does as well,” he said.
In general, Faulds said the greatest earthquake risk is in Western Nevada along this fault, but the geological survey is working on a risk assessment for Southern Nevada as well. There have also been tremors across the Great Basin, including the 2008 Wells quake. I’ll be writing more about earthquakes, the science behind them, and the unknowns. I’ll also look at what it means for Western Nevada.”