Earthquake Swarm In Reno, Nevada, Continues To Shake Area

After recording hundreds of tremors, scientists wonder if recent quakes are leading up to something bigger.

Reno, Nevada is the latetest area to be swarmed with earthquakes.
Dimas Ardian / Getty Images

After recording hundreds of tremors, scientists wonder if recent quakes are leading up to something bigger.

An earthquake swarm in Reno, Nevada, is really nothing to worry about, according to scientists. Nearly 300 tremors rattled the region over the last 30 days, but most of them were too small to be felt except by very sensitive seismic instruments.

Of the 274 earthquakes in the Reno area, only five measured higher than magnitude 2.0. The largest to strike was a 2.7 magnitude quake on January 16. Most were too small to be felt, and many would have gone undetected if it weren’t for seismographs alerting scientists to the event.

Scientists first started noticing the earthquake swarm about a month ago. Ken Smith, a tremor expert with the Nevada Seismological Laboratory at the University of Nevada in Reno, said instruments recorded an uptick in quakes around December 18.

They began tapering off around January 12 but then gradually increased again. However, late last week, the earthquake swarm started to slow once again.

“Things are starting to cool off a little bit, so that’s good news,” Smith explained to Newsweek.

While scientists monitoring the area say earthquake swarms around Reno are not unusual, they are particularly concerned about a nearby fault capable of unleashing a large magnitude quake. With the unpredictable nature of earth movements, they are paying close attention to the recent quakes for any signs the small ones might trigger something more prominent.

No significant signs of big earthquakes in Reno.
Even though no real damage was caused by the Reno earthquakes, scientists still want people to prepare for a possible “Big One.” Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

The recent earthquake swarm in Reno is likely nothing to be concerned with. However, scientists carefully watch for any unusual ground movements in case local authorities need to issue a seismic activity alert, which would give residents time to prepare for a potential large quake.

“Everyone is worried about the big one, but it doesn’t take the big one to knock over your water heater and empty out your shelves,” Smith said, as quoted by the Reno Gazette Journal.

A similar swarm of earthquakes hit Reno in 2013, which did not generate any significant tremors. Another series of quakes shook the area in 2015, producing several 3.0 magnitude tremors and one measuring 4.0.

Although seismologists expect the tremors to stop over the next few days or weeks, they still have not pinpointed which underground fault system is activating the current swarm of Reno earthquakes. With numerous fault lines running through the Silver State, Nevada is one of the most seismically active states in the U.S., with most residents used to the ground shaking every once in a while