Researchers still unsure what's causing Reno quakes

Sacramento BeeMay 3, 2008 

MOGUL, Nev. — Geoff Blewitt, a University of Nevada physicist who focuses on measuring minute earth movements with GPS, believes that since a swarm of earthquakes began west of Reno, a 20-square-mile area has shifted eastward one centimeter — just under a half-inch.

The shift is too great to be caused by the swarm itself and hints that a deeper, underground creep is straining the region above it, Blewitt said. The swarm could be partially releasing that strain. He's hoping to learn more as he monitors two additional GPS sites that a colleague set up last week east of the swarm and directly on top of it.

The area is starting to bristle with equipment. Thursday and Friday, as teams of researchers began digging holes to install portable seismic stations borrowed from an instrument center in New Mexico. Meanwhile, other University of Nevada, Reno, researchers are trying to map what's beneath the swarm, as well as collect video and first-person reports from the few thousand people who live in Mogul and Somersett.

Mogul and neighboring Somersett, where luxury homes nestle on ridges and ravines, have been shaken since Feb. 28 by a swarm of earthquakes so shallow that people feel even the little ones. There have been nearly 600 quakes of magnitude 1 or over, many packed into the last eight days.

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