1872 Owens Valley Earthquake


The 1872 Owens Valley earthquake was a significant seismic event on March 26, 1872, in Owens Valley, California, USA. The earthquake is estimated to have had a magnitude of 7.4 to 7.9, making it one of the largest historical earthquakes in California.

Some key points about the 1872 Owens Valley earthquake:

  1. Location: The earthquake’s epicenter was near Lone Pine in Owens Valley, in eastern California, near the eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range.
  2. Effects: The earthquake caused extensive damage in the Owens Valley region. The town of Lone Pine suffered the most severe damage, with many buildings collapsing. In addition to the structural damage, the earthquake triggered ground ruptures, creating surface faulting along the eastern Sierra Nevada.
  3. Surface Rupture: The earthquake is notable for the significant surface rupture that occurred along the Owens Valley fault. This rupture extended for about 30 miles (48 kilometers) and displaced the ground horizontally by as much as 15 feet (4.5 meters). This surface rupture remains visible today as a scar on the landscape.
  4. Aftershocks: Numerous aftershocks followed the mainshock, continuing for several months. These aftershocks contributed to ongoing damage and hampered recovery efforts.
  5. Impact on the Landscape: The earthquake caused changes to the landscape, including the formation of new fault scarps and the uplifting of land along the eastern Sierra Nevada. These changes are still studied by geologists today.
  6. Historical Significance: The 1872 Owens Valley earthquake is historically significant in the study of seismic activity in California. It provided valuable data for understanding the behavior of faults and the effects of large earthquakes on the landscape.

It’s worth noting that the Owens Valley region remains seismically active, and scientists continue studying the area to understand future earthquakes’ potential better. The 1872 event serves as a reminder of the seismic hazards associated with the complex fault systems in California.

Lone Pine

Owens Valley

Eastern Sierra Nevada