Colorado's earthquakes: The mystery behind the fault lines

4:03 AM, Aug 25, 2011   |    comments
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"Anywhere where there's mountains, there's faults. So all those mountains came up slowly, through repeated earthquakes," Derek Schutt, an assistant professor of geosciences at Colorado State University, said.

Earthquakes happen on faults, according to Schutt. The only problem is that we don't know where so many of the fault lines are.

Many of Colorado's fault lines are near the Rocky Mountains. But it's what we don't see that makes predicting earthquakes impossible.

"Northridge Los Angeles had a pretty bad earthquake a few years ago that caused a lot of damage and destruction," Schutt said. "No one even knew that fault existed."

The same holds true for Colorado's worst ever earthquake, which happened somewhere near Estes Park in the late 19th century.

"As far as I know, no one knows where that fault is," Schutt said.

Despite the uncertainty of where unknown fault lines are, Schutt says the chance of a major earthquake in Colorado is "pretty low."

Experts continue to study why earthquakes happen. But it will be a long time before the location or time of earthquakes will be even remotely predictable.

"We don't understand the Earth. We'd love to predict earthquakes, but we haven't figured that out yet," said Schutt. "Earthquakes can occur pretty much anywhere, at any time."

Earlier this week, a 5.3-magnitude earthquake hit near Trinidad. It caused minor damage and no injuries were reported.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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