California’s 7.1 Magnitude Earthquake Left a Large Crack in the Earth’s Surface

The 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Southern California created a huge crack in the earth's surface in July, 2019.
Donna Fuscaldo
Left: July 4, 2019. Right: July 7, 2019, after the 7.1 magnitude earthquake.Planet Labs

The 7.1 magnitude earthquake that rocked California in July 2019 didn’t result in any casualties but it’s nothing to shrug off either. 

Satellite imagery captured by Planet Labs shows the earthquake created a fissure in the Earth’s surface that’s so big, it can easily be seen from space. 

Before and after photos captured by Planet Labs on July 4 and July 6 show a big crack in the surface of the earth close to the epicenter of the quake, which hit 11 miles north-northeast of Ridgecrest, California.  Planet Labs Chief Executive Will Marshal showed off the before and after satellite imagery on Twitter

According to reports, the crack goes through the Mojave Desert and across a highway. The fissure measured at around two inches wide but gets deeper as it stretches out. The crack eventually became a tourist spot for some Californians. Residents of Ridgecrest and those from other parts of the state visited the fissure to see for themselves. Some used the opportunity to snap selfies with the earthquake-caused crack. 

The chances of a similar-sized earthquake are low 

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) said the earthquake was the result of shallow strike-slip faulting in the crust of the North America plate. It occurred about 34 hours after a 6.4 magnitude quake in the same region on July 4.

“This region of eastern California has hosted numerous moderate-sized earthquakes,” the United States Geological Survey said on its website. “Over the past 40 years, prior to the July 4th event, 8 other M5+ earthquakes have occurred within 50 km of the July 6th, 2019 earthquake. The largest of these was an M 5.8 event on September 20, 1995, just 3 km to the west of today’s event, which was felt strongly in the China Lake-Ridgecrest area, and more broadly from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.”

Californians on Edge 

The end of the quakes, however, didn't stop rattled residents from sleeping outdoors and prompting California Governor Gavin Newsom to call for a strengthening of the alert systems and building codes in the state. “It is a wake-up call for the rest of the state and other parts of the nation, frankly,” Newsom said at a news conference after the earthquakes. 

While California is a well-known earthquake zone due to its proximity to a fault line, these earthquakes in Ridgecrest were especially noteworthy. Egill Hauksson, a Caltech seismologist said the aftershocks could last for months, if not years.

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