Is it true that small earthquakes are harbingers of large earthquakes?

A house destroyed by an earthquake.

The question of predicting earthquakes and how to know if the Great One is coming remains a mystery. In recent years, several forecasting models have been advanced, including the possibility of measuring thermal patterns of heat on earth, from space, in order to serve as a predictor. Scientists have found holes in the latter theory, and much to everyone’s dismay, no single method is reliable for determining when an earthquake will occur. What remains fairly constant is that most large earthquakes occur on fault lines, where constant pressure from the underlying tectonic plates can cause the ground to suddenly shake, shake and roll. Scientists can therefore say that larger earthquakes are much more likely along fault lines, especially some noted faults like the San Andreas Fault, which runs through much of California.

So far, scientists have not found a reliable indicator of high-magnitude earthquakes.

The question of whether small earthquakes are precursors to large earthquakes is therefore complex. First, you would have to define small earthquakes; are these the ones that people generally don’t feel or are they small 2.0-3.0 earthquakes that some people will feel? Even so, if you come to a definition, you can’t say for sure that small earthquakes always come before big ones.

Most large earthquakes occur on fault lines, where there is constant pressure from the underlying tectonic plates.

For example, in California, if you look at the US Geological Survey (USGS) website, you can count hundreds of earthquakes that are not even felt, occurring with great regularity. If these small earthquakes are precursors to large earthquakes, then we would constantly have large earthquakes. On the other hand, small earthquakes suggest a certain level of fault activity and increased pressure, and scientists regularly suggest that we should all prepare for the Big One, as it could come at any time. So you can say that small earthquakes can portend large earthquakes because they suggest that eventually, at some point in the future, a large earthquake is likely.

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When a great earthquake occurs, the earthquakes of the previous days are called calamities. Small earthquakes that occur after a large earthquake are called aftershocks. Small earthquakes don’t necessarily have to be, but scientists can group seismic activity before and after a large earthquake in hopes of better understanding how and why earthquakes occur and under what circumstances they are most likely. Still, using the theory that small earthquakes are harbingers of large earthquakes is not solid science. Just some of them are. It is more accurate to suggest that the active fault lines that produce these tiny, non-felt shakers are likely to produce larger earthquakes.

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