Nevada Seismological Laboratory Frequently Asked Questions
|Q: Why does Nevada
A: Nevada has both small and large earthquakes. Nearly all the mountain ranges in the state are growing, one earthquake at a time. (topographic map) Q: Could a big earthquake like they have in California happen in Reno?
A: Yes, but not as often. Reno had a nearby magnitude 6.4 earthquake in 1914, and we believe we had a magnitude 6.7 earthquake very nearby in 1869. The potential exists for earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or a little larger in the Reno area. (Earthquakes in Reno-Carson City map)
Q: How many earthquakes are there in Nevada?
A: There are thousands each year that are too small for anyone to feel. There might be tens to over one hundred earthquakes over a year in Nevada and eastern California that are large enough to be felt. On average an earthquake that is strong enough to be damaging, if it strikes a populated area, occurs about every three years in this region. (seismicity map; earthquake search)
Q: Where are the faults in Nevada?
A: We have found active earthquake faults in every part of Nevada. The area just east of the Sierras might have the most activity. There is an active fault at the base of nearly every mountain range in the state. So everyone in Nevada lives no more than several miles from an earthquake fault. (fault map of Nevada)
Q: Are there faults near Reno?
A: There are at least two faults running into the city limits that may be capable of a large, damaging earthquake of magnitude 7 or more, larger than the Northridge earthquake in January 1994. There are many more apparently smaller faults. (fault map of Reno-Carson)
Q: Are there active faults near Las Vegas?
A: Yes. Just as many as in any other part of Nevada. But they may not have earthquakes as often as in the other areas. (fault map of Las Vegas)
Q: Are there faults near Las Vegas that could produce a magnitude 7 earthquake? Are there more earthquakes in Nevada than in Arizona or New Mexico?
A: There are faults in the region around Las Vegas that have the potential to produce strong earthquakes on rare occasions. Rare means that the average time between the large earthquakes on any one of the faults is at least 1000-10,000 years. We do not know when the next one will happen, of course.
There are also active faults with long average times between earthquakes
in some parts of Arizona, and some parts of New Mexico. On average,
Arizona and New Mexico both have fewer earthquakes than Nevada,
but a strong Nevada earthquake is more likely to be close to Reno
than to Las Vegas, so a state-wide average doesn't tell you anything
about the hazard faced by Las Vegas.
|Can't find an answer? Click here to ask a USGS scientist|
Return to Questions & Answers
Plain Text Version
Last modified: 11/07/2006