Record number of earthquakes over 4.0 hits Los Angeles for first time since 1994

BY Colleen Shalby  June 3, 2014 at 2:45 PM EST
Buildings and cars were destroyed in the 6.7 magnitude Northridge Earthquake on Jan. 17, 1994 . Seismologists have recorded a record number of earthquakes with a magnitude larger than 4.0 in Los Angeles in the last five months. Photo by Andrea Booher/FEMA News Photo

Buildings and cars were destroyed in the 6.7 magnitude Northridge Earthquake on Jan. 17, 1994 . Seismologists have recorded a record number of earthquakes with a magnitude larger than 4.0 in Los Angeles in the last five months. Photo by Andrea Booher/FEMA News Photo

In the the past five months, and as recently as Sunday, Los Angeles has experienced five earthquakes — each with a magnitude larger than 4.0. The city hasn’t witnessed such an occurrence since 1994, when the 6.7 magnitude Northridge earthquake killed nearly 60 people and damaged more than 80,000 structures across the city.

Scientists are still trying to decipher what the series of quakes means — whether they’re connected and if they suggest that a larger earthquake is on its way.

U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Lucy Jones told the Los Angeles Times that “the chance we will have a bigger earthquake this year is more than if we hadn’t had this cluster,” but of course, there’s no way of predicting an earthquake.

Following Los Angeles’s March 17 quake, seismologists believed it could have been an aftershock from the 1994 Northridge earthquake. But there’s still a strong possibility that these quakes are part of a new and separate sequence.

A recent study from the U.S. Geological Survey suggests that the increase in earthquakes could be connected to fracking — the underground hydraulic fracturing technique meant to extract oil. But as the Los Angeles Times reports, since there’s no public database available detailing what “fluid oil companies are injecting into the ground and where,” it might be difficult to determine if fracking is a cause.

For information on earthquake safety, visit the Red Cross’s earthquake preparedness site.