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Introduction to Desert Geology

Shake, Rattle, And Roll

Garlock fault in southern Sierra Nevada
For Mojave Desert residents earthquakes are active reminders of the Earth’s dynamic nature. An earthquake is a shaking of the Earth caused by the release of energy as rock suddenly breaks or shifts under stress. Although earthquakes can happen anywhere, most occur along tectonic plate margins and are associated with faults.

The Mojave Desert lies near the boundary between the Pacific and North American plates. As these plates slide past each other stress is created, forcing rocks to break along faults. A magnitude 7.6 earthquake, centered in the western Mojave Desert, rattled a wide area on June 28, 1992. It was the largest to strike California in forty years and was also the world’s largest earthquake for 1992. Aftershocks from this quake were felt for many years.

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