The United States Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 6.5 Earthquake at a depth of 2.8 km, roughly 56 km to the west of the town of Tonopah in Nye County, Nevada, slightly after 4.00 pam local time (slightly after 11.00 am GMT) on Friday 15 May 2020. There are no reports of any casualties or damage to buildings associated with this quake, but a number of roads have been closed due to fracturing. This is the largest recorded Earthquake in Nevada since 1954, and people have reported feeling it across Nevada, California, Oregon, Arizona and Utah, as well as in parts of Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado states in the US, as well as Baja California in Mexico.
Damage to the US 95 highway in Esmeralda County, Nevada, following the state's largest Earthquake in 66 years, on Friday 15 May 2020. Esmeralda County Sheriff's Office.
Nevada is a zone of active mountain orogeny (mountain growth), fuelled by the subduction zone on the American West Coast. The state is criss-crossed by faults associated with its many growing mountain ranges. The rocks of the North American lithosphere are being pushed to the east by seafloor spreading beneath the Pacific and to the west by seafloor spreading beneath the Atlantic. This results in folding and upthrust within the plate, principally in the Rocky Mountains, which run along the western margin of the North American Plate, close to the subduction and fault zones of the continent's west coast. This folding and thrusting leads to frequent Earthquakes throughout the Rocky Mountain and areas to the west.
The approximate location of the 15 May 2020 Nye County Earthquake swarm. USGS.
Earthquakes are considered to cause as mucg Earth movement in Nevada as they do in neighbouring California, however, while California suffers a large number of relatively small Earthquakes, the interval between Earthquakes in Nevada tends to be longer, with the effect that pressure on the state's thirty plus major faults tends to build up much more between events, and subsequently Earthquakes tend to be much larger.
Witness accounts of Earthquakes can help geologists to understand these events and the underlying structures that cause them. If you felt this quake (or if you were in the area but did not, which is also useful information) then you can report it to the United States Geological Survey here.
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