Can a large earthquake trigger earthquakes in distant locations or on other faults?

Sometimes.

Earthquakes, particularly large ones, can trigger other earthquakes in more distant locations though a process known as dynamic stress transfer/triggering. This means that the energy from the seismic wave passing through can cause a new earthquake, usually in vulnerable locations prone to frequent earthquakes (e.g., volcanic regions). Examples of large events that triggered distant seismicity include the 1992 M7.3 Landers earthquake, 2002 M7.9 Denali earthquake, and the 2004 M 9.1 Sumatra earthquake that ruptured an area ~1300x200 square km, and triggered aftershocks from northern Sumatra to just south of Myanmar.

If a triggered earthquake is within a distance of about 2-3 fault lengths of the fault rupture associated with a mainshock, the earthquake is considered to be an aftershock, not a triggered event.

The fault length is related to the earthquake size:

  • M4 ~ 1 km long
  • M7 ~ 40-60 km long
  • M9.1 Sumatra fault ~ 100's of km long

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Can earthquakes trigger volcanic eruptions?

Sometimes, yes. A few large regional earthquakes (greater than magnitude 6) are considered to be related to a subsequent eruption or to some type of unrest at a nearby volcano. However, volcanoes can only be triggered into eruption by nearby tectonic earthquakes if they are already poised to erupt . This requires two conditions to be met: Enough "...

How can an earthquake affect groundwater or changes in wells?

Groundwater levels in wells may oscillate up and down while seismic waves pass, and in some cases, the water level may remain higher or lower for a period of time after the seismic wavetrain has ended. Learn more: Groundwater Effects from Earthquakes Groundwater Response to Earthquakes

What does an earthquake feel like?

The way an earthquake feels depends on where you are, where the earthquake is, and how big the earthquake is: A large earthquake nearby will feel like a sudden large jolt followed quickly by more strong shaking that may last a few seconds or up to a couple of minutes if it's a rare great event. The shaking will feel violent and it will be...

Is there any possibility that a wastewater injection activity could interact with a nearby fault to trigger a major earthquake that causes extensive damage over a broad region?

So far, there is no documented example linking injection operations to triggering of major earthquakes. However, we cannot eliminate this possibility. Other human activities--for example oil production in Uzbekistan--have induced M7+ earthquakes. Learn more: USGS Induced Earthquakes

Can an eruption at one volcano trigger an eruption at another volcano?

There is no definitive evidence that an eruption at one volcano can trigger an eruption at a volcano that’s hundreds of kilometers/miles away or on a different continent. There are a few historic examples of simultaneous eruptions from volcanoes (or volcanic vents ) located within about 10 kilometers (6 miles) of each other, but it's difficult to...
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Date published: November 26, 2018

Can a nuclear blast trigger a Yellowstone eruption? No. But how about an earthquake? Also no.

YVO has noted, with some amusement, tabloid headlines about various diabolical schemes to trigger an eruption of Yellowstone by nuking the caldera. If you find these crazy schemes somewhat unnerving, please don't be concerned—such a plan has zero chance of working!

Date published: March 6, 2014

2011 Oklahoma Induced Earthquake May Have Triggered Larger Quake

 In a new study involving researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey, scientists observed that a human-induced magnitude 5.0 earthquake near Prague, Oklahoma in November 2011 may have triggered the larger M5.7 earthquake less than a day later. 

Date published: September 26, 2012

Rare Great Earthquake in April Triggers Large Aftershocks All Over the Globe

MENLO PARK, Calif. — Large earthquakes can alter seismicity patterns across the globe in very different ways, according to two new studies by U.S. Geological Survey seismologists. Both studies shed light on more than a decade of debate on the origin and prevalence of remotely triggered earthquakes.

Date published: March 8, 2012

Triggered Fault Movement from Baja Quake Reveals Previously Unknown Faults in Southern California

MENLO PARK, Calif.— The El Mayor-Cucapah earthquake in northern Baja California, Mexico on April 4, 2010 triggered surface movement on several Southern California faults. Detailed mapping of these small movements by the U.S. Geological Survey, California Geological Survey, and other institutions, revealed previously unknown faults in the greater Salton Sea area...

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Date published: September 8, 2011

Volcano Watch — Can earthquakes trigger volcanic eruptions?

Seismologists are often asked the question, "Can large earthquakes trigger volcanic eruptions?" The short answer is yes, earthquakes and volcanic processes are closely linked, as suggested by the existence of the "ring of fire" of active volcanoes and earthquakes circling the Pacific Ocean.

Date published: May 9, 2011

Distant Earthquakes Can Trigger Deep Slow Fault Slip

Researchers examining the San Andreas Fault in central California have found evidence that distant earthquakes can trigger episodes of accelerated (but still very slow) slip motion, deep on the fault. 

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May 21, 2015

PubTalk 5/2015 — Breaking Badly:Forecasting California Earthquakes

by Morgan Page, USGS Research Geophysicist

  • Scientists cannot currently predict the precise time, location, and size of future damaging earthquakes.
  • Historical records of earthquakes in California date back over 150 years.
  • Geologists have dug trenches to extend the known history on some faults back to around 1,000 years before
EQ magnitudes and their energy released

EQ Magnitude, Energy Release, and Shaking Intensity

Earthquake magnitudes and energy release, and comparison with other natural and man-made events.

map with gray dots

1992 Joshua Tree-Landers-Big Bear, California Earthquake Sequence

All earthquakes magnitude 2 or greater in the region of the 1992 Joshua Tree-Landers-Big Bear sequence from April 22 to July 15 are shown as gray circles. The mainshocks for each of the 3 main sequences are shown as red stars.