Nevada’s First Recorded Earthquake Death? This Could Be It, Caused by Ridgecrest Temblors

By Rong-Gong Lin II, Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times
August. 6, 2019 6 AM

Excerpts are copied below. You can read the complete story here: Nevada’s First Recorded Earthquake Death? This Could Be It, Caused by Ridgecrest Temblors

“For all the power of the Ridgecrest earthquakes — the strongest with an epicenter in Southern California in nearly two decades — the only death related to the temblors may have actually occurred outside the state.

The death in Nevada is illustrative of the significant earthquake risk the Silver State, though not as bad as California, still endures. The Reno area, for instance, has a seismic risk that approaches that of the San Francisco Bay Area, according to Nevada state geologists…

There has never been a documented death from an earthquake in Nevada, according to Craig dePolo, earthquake geologist at the state Bureau of Mines and Geology, who has exhaustively researched records of the 23 earthquakes with epicenters in Nevada of magnitude 6 or greater. “If indeed Mr. Ray’s death was caused by an earthquake, it would be the first time it’s been recorded,” he said…

Nevada has been largely quiet of destructive earthquakes since the 1960s, except for the magnitude 6 Wells earthquake of 2008, which caused an abandoned two-story building to collapse and two more buildings to partially collapse, and damaged about 30 others. Officials reported $19 million in damage.

But from the 1850s to the 1950s, there were 22 earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater in Nevada.

“Up until about the 1960s, Nevada was very active,” dePolo said. “It used to be known as an earthquake state, just like California. But we’ve lost a lot of the folklore because there’s been fewer earthquakes. Awareness is moderate to low.”

Nevada is farther away from the main plate boundary dividing the Pacific and North American plates, but the state still gathers seismic strain over the decades that must be released in earthquakes eventually. “The handle is turning, and the box is there — it’s just a matter of time before the jack-in-the-box pops out.”

The Reno area has an earthquake risk approaching that of San Francisco, dePolo said; Las Vegas’ risk is less, but still exists. Faults in the basin Reno sits in is capable of generating earthquakes as big as magnitude 6.8; a larger fault in the Carson Valley just south of Reno could generate a quake as large as magnitude 7.4.

Just east of Las Vegas is Frenchman Mountain, and on the east side of the mountain lies an earthquake fault capable of producing an earthquake of possibly magnitude 6.7, dePolo said.”

Earth’s Heat Gives States Another Option for Clean Energy Goals

  • Nevada exploring geothermal’s potential for electricity, heating
  • Cost, risk impede development

By Brenna Goth, July 15, 2019 06:01AM ET, Bloomberg Law.
Read the full story here: Earth’s Heat Gives States Another Option for Clean Energy Goals.

“Tapping heat beneath the Earth’s surface for electricity and other uses is gaining ground among policy makers, especially out West, as states seek to expand their options for meeting more aggressive renewable energy goals.

Geothermal energy’s promise lies in its ability to constantly produce power with limited environmental impacts, unlike resources such as wind or solar that are weather-dependent and have other challenges.

It also has the potential “to power the global electric grid many times over” with a nearly unlimited supply, Susan G. Hamm, director of the Energy Department’s geothermal technologies office, says in the introduction to its analysis on the subject.

While geothermal energy represents a small fraction of the power used in the U.S., production could increase by more than 26 times over roughly three decades with the right technology and policy changes, the analysis said. But the risk and cost of developing new projects could hamper the industry’s growth.

One major state player, Nevada, wants to tackle those issues as its utilities move toward getting half their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

A new initiative in the state, which is second only to California in U.S. geothermal electricity generation, directs lawmakers to audit geothermal potential and propose changes that could boost the resource.

Environmental considerations for geothermal projects vary by technology and include water use, greenhouse gas emissions higher than for wind or solar, and seismic hazards. Utilities, though, face few choices for energy sources that both meet their climate change goals and can stabilize the grid, said Paul Thomsen, vice president of business development for the Americas at renewable energy company Ormat Technologies.

“This renewable resource really is a problem solver,” said Thomsen, who also chairs the Geothermal Resources Council policy committee.

Nevada Resort Shows Potential

Nevada is taking a broad approach to analyzing its geothermal potential and impediments. Policy proposals will go to the Legislature for approval.

Lawmakers and researchers will weigh how to map geothermal resources, and the necessary technology and financial support to use them. They will consider applications like using geothermal directly to heat public buildings, and figure out how to integrate the power source with the solar, mining, and lithium industries.

Increasing geothermal use is a matter of national security for state Sen. Pat Spearman (D), who sponsored the initiative. Breaking reliance on foreign oil became a priority following her military career, she said.

“I need the experts working on this with me,” Spearman said.

Some state leaders see potential in a Reno resort’s use of geothermal for heating, which can use underground water at lower temperatures than are needed to produce electricity. The 1,621-room Peppermill Resort Spa Casino produces all of its own heat from its onsite geothermal plant.

Geothermal use at the property dates back to the 1970s. A 4,400-foot-deep production well drilled more than a decade ago replaced boilers and now saves the property $2.2 million per year on its natural gas bills, according to Peppermill representatives. Its carbon dioxide emissions also decreased by 12,000 metric tons per year.

“We were on a known aquifer. So we knew the water was down there and we were able to utilize it,” said John Kassai, the resort’s central plant and geothermal engineering manager.

Risk Reduction, Faster Permitting on Table

Market demand for geothermal is increasing with higher state renewable energy requirements, particularly in places awash with solar, said Thomsen, from the Geothermal Resources Council. The Department of Energy is among agencies looking at how to make development cheaper and faster.

Exploring and developing resources deep underground poses unique challenges. Permitting and land access issues can also increase cost and project length.

The geothermal industry doesn’t have the research and development budget to address those issues, Thomsen said. Legislation proposed in Congress seeks to help, as does federally-funded research.

A project out of Nevada aims to reduce the risk of geothermal exploration to make the energy more economical, said James Faulds, director of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology at the University of Nevada, Reno, that is leading the Energy Department-funded research.

Most geothermal resources are “blind”—they don’t have hot springs or other signs at the surface, said Faulds, who is also a professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.

The research looks at multiple characteristics of known geothermal systems, including fault locations, to find patterns that can indicate potential new resources. The goal is to make it quicker and cheaper to find and drill undiscovered systems; Industry would be responsible for actually developing the resource. Recent exploratory drilling at two areas the research identified found new geothermal systems. That result is an “enormous success” and shows promise for reducing risk, according to a statement from the Energy Department’s Geothermal Technologies Office.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Brenna Goth in Phoenix at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Gregory Henderson at;
Susan Bruninga at;
Anna Yukhananov at

Latest News from the Nevada Geodetic Laboratory

[June 18, 2018] New paper published on the August 24, 2014 M6.0 South Napa Earthquake

“A new paper published by Nevada Geodetic Laboratory Graduate Student Meredith Kraner uses data from high‐precision continuous GPS stations to observe a 3 mm horizontal expansion of the Earth’s crust prior to and in the vicinity of the August 2014 M6.0 South Napa earthquake. The study is a collaboration with William Holt from Stony Brook University, and Adrian Borsa from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. The analysis looks at eight years of continuous GPS data leading up to the earthquake and finds that this pattern of horizontal crustal extension repeats every summer. The effect releases pressure on faults in the West Napa fault system, making them more likely to slip during the summer months. We speculate that large seasonal variability in the amount of groundwater in the Sonoma and Napa Valley subbasins may contribute to the observed changes.

Read more in the paper, which has been published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Solid Earth and is available online here:

Also see features from the AGU, AP news, KCBS radio, and Live Science.” (from NGL website)

New Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology faculty geologist: Andrew Zuza will study the unique history of Nevada’s geology, tectonics and crustal deformation

Story by Michael Olinger, Nevada Today, Jan. 27, 2017


Read the story here (also copied below):

“Reno is ground zero for interesting geology. With the Sierra Nevada mountain range to the west and the Great Basin to the east, seemingly endless research opportunities exist within easy reach of geologists. That is one of the things that brought Andrew Zuza to the area.

“It’s hard to beat living on the east side of the Sierras and having a whole vast expanse of Nevada to explore on the weekends,” said Zuza, who started work last semester as an assistant professor and survey geologist with the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, a public service department in the University’s College of Science.

His research with the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology will focus on a variety of topics, including exploration of hydrocarbon potential in eastern central Nevada. Zuza has also conducted field mapping throughout the region in hopes of getting funding for studies related to earthquake faults, geothermal potential, magmatic and volcanic processes, and the geologic history of the area over the last billion years.

In addition to his research, Zuza is also excited about his work in the classroom, which this semester includes an introductory field geology course.

“In other schools or organizations, you could do research and teach, or act as a state survey geologist, but rarely do everything,” Zuza said. “I love conducting geologic research, but also wish to teach students and fulfill the societal role that a survey geologist would.”

Jim Faulds, director of the Bureau and the Nevada State Geologist, is thrilled to have Andrew Zuza as a part of the team.

“Dr. Zuza brings expertise and innovative approaches to structural geology and tectonics to the Bureau,” Faulds said. “We are very pleased to welcome him.”

Zuza received his doctorate in geology from the University of California, Los Angeles in the spring of 2016, spent a summer as an instructor for the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and in 2011 received his bachelor of science degree in Science of Earth Systems – Geologic Sciences from Cornell University, where he graduated magna cum laude with Distinction in Research.

“I have had very positive experiences in moving to Reno and integrating into the University,” said Zuza, echoing Faulds’ enthusiasm. “It has been rewarding and challenging.”

Andrew Zuza:

News from Nevada Today

Photo: UNR

Hawthorne, Nev. hit by three magnitude 5.5 to 5.7 earthquakes
by Mike Wolterbeek, Nevada Today, 12/28/16

“Three magnitude 5.5 to 5.7 earthquakes struck about 18 miles southwest of Hawthorne, Nevada just after midnight Wednesday December 28, 2016, the Nevada Seismological Laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno reported. Reports so far indicate minimal damage due to the remote nature of the earthquake sequence.”

Read more:


Photo: UNR

Learn how to reduce the radon health risk
by Tiffany Kozsan, Nevada Today, 12/27/16

“January is National Radon Action Month, and University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Radon Education Program is offering free radon test kits and educational presentations at various locations across the state. Free test kits are available at Cooperative Extension offices and partner offices statewide from Jan. 1 through Feb 28, and will also be available at the presentations.”

 Read more:

What’s Shaking—Seismological Lab—July/August Newsletter

A note from Annie Kell:  Please find our newsletter [link below] covering the earthquake events during the months of July and August. We often receive questions about “How will Washoe County be prepared after a large earthquake?” To cover that topic, our Washoe County Emergency Manager, Aaron Kenneston, writes about some of the regional safety efforts.

Read newsletter here:

Annie Kell, Ph.D.
Outreach Seismologist
Nevada Seismological Laboratory
University of Nevada, Reno

New Faculty at NBMG

A message from Dr. Jim Faulds, NBMG Director and State Geologist:
We are very pleased to welcome two new faculty members to NBMG—Dr. Rich Koehler and Dr. Bridget Ayling.  Dr. Koehler brings expertise in neotectonics and Quaternary geology to NBMG.  Dr. Ayling is the new Director of the Great Basin Center for Geothermal Energy and has a wealth of expertise in geothermal energy and unconventional petroleum resources.

Dr. Rich Koehler
Dr. Rich Koehler recently joined the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology and the College of Science at the University of Nevada, Reno as an Assistant Professor.  He received his BA in Geology from the University of California, Santa Cruz; MS in Geology from Humboldt State University; and PhD in Geology from University of Nevada, Reno.  Dr. Koehler’s research focuses on earthquake geology, Quaternary geology, paleoseismology, geomorphology, and engineering geology.  To address problems in these topics, he applies expertise in air photo, lidar, and satellite imagery interpretation; Quaternary geologic and geomorphic mapping; soil stratigraphy; and paleoseismic trenching.

Dr. Koehler’s paleoseismic experience includes studies throughout the western United States, including faults in California, New Mexico, Washington, Alaska, and Nevada and international projects in Turkey, Taiwan, Jamaica, and Haiti.  Dr. Koehler has contributed to geologic and seismic hazard evaluation for major infrastructure projects including oil and gas pipelines, liquefied natural gas facilities, hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants, and industrial and residential developments.

In his current work, Dr. Koehler is focused on researching active faults and Quaternary geology in the Great Basin and surrounding region to better characterize seismic hazards.  Toward this goal, he is building a new Quaternary laboratory specifically designed for paleoseismic research, including state-of-the-art computing facilities for processing and analysis of 3-D topographic datasets developed from satellite, lidar, and aerial photography and soil processing facilities for the separation and processing of samples for various Quaternary dating techniques.  He also continues to collaborate with colleagues at the USGS on a project assessing earthquake and tsunami recurrence in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska.

Dr. Bridget Ayling

Dr. Bridget Ayling recently joined the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology and the College of Science at the University of Nevada, Reno as an Associate Professor and new Director of the Great Basin Center for Geothermal Energy.  Dr. Ayling is a geologist and geochemist with over nine years of combined experience in the geothermal and unconventional gas sector.  She completed her undergraduate and graduate studies in New Zealand, completing a BSc (Hons) degree at Victoria University of Wellington.  She then moved to Australia to undertake a PhD in environmental geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Australian National University.  After completing her PhD in 2006, Dr. Ayling joined Geoscience Australia (Australia’s national geological survey), where she became involved in geothermal energy research and mapping of Australia’s geothermal resource potential.  She spent two years at the University of Utah (2010–2012), working with researchers at the Energy & Geoscience Institute on a range of geothermal projects funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, before returning to Geoscience Australia to pursue research in geothermal reservoir characterization and unconventional petroleum plays.

Dr. Ayling has worked in both conventional and unconventional (i.e. EGS) geothermal settings in Australia and the United States, contributing to regional geothermal resource assessments, surface heat-flow measurement, characterization of reservoir fracture mineralogy, geochemical tracer studies, and conducting numerical modeling to understand reservoir fluid flow regimes.  More recently, she applied hyperspectral imaging techniques to map and understand the mineralogical characteristics of unconventional petroleum source rocks in Cambrian marine sediments in northern Australia.

Dr. Ayling’s current research interests center on reservoir characterization and integration of multidisciplinary datasets to understand the dynamics of geothermal systems at the reservoir and basin scale.  She is also interested in reservoir engineering, sustainable management of geothermal resources, renewable energy technologies more broadly, and the promotion of geothermal energy use in developing countries.