What Caused Colorado’s 5.3 Earthquake on August 23rd And Other Unrelated U.S. Seismic Activity?

As of this date there has been no definitive explanation on what caused the recent 5.3 earthquake that rattled Colorado on August 23rd at 37.070°N, 104.700°W.  We are being precise in the exact location to aid in identifying what could have caused this quake, and while our hypothesis may not be correct, at this time until further quantification of the event is analyzed,  I wouldn’t take any logical theory off of the table until it had been proved otherwise. What we should discount as a nothing more than a conspiracy theory is that both of these quakes were caused by nuclear detonations that resonated through a vast complex of underground tunnels bored-out by the U.S. Air Force at a cost of 40 trillion dollars – a project that began in the 1960′s and continues until today as reported by The European Union Times. This theory has so many holes in it I won’t even bother anyone with attempting to discount such a ridiculous assumption; anyone that has a basic understanding of plate tectonicsHotspots and Rifts would instantly recognize such a theory as implausible and utterly improbable, if not impossible.

The theory that I am presenting today involves the Rio Grande Rift. Rifts are located throughout the world and several of those are inactive or in some cases, extinct. (It’s important to note that Volcanoes and Rifts, as well as inactive fault zones that we believe are inactive/extinct can be reactivated by other geological forces, so the term “extinct” is purely a relative term as it relates to our limited understanding of geological processes.) One of the Rifts that most of us are familiar with is Mid-Atlantic Ridge that attained national prominence during the recent eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano that runs through a high spot that we call Iceland:

The Mid-Atlantic Ridge includes a deep rift valley which runs along the axis of the ridge along nearly its entire length. This rift marks the actual boundary between adjacent tectonic plates, where magma from the mantle reaches the seafloor, erupting as lava and producing new crustal material for the plates.

Near the equator, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is divided into the North Atlantic Ridge and the South Atlantic Ridge by the Romanche Trench, a narrow submarine trench with a maximum depth of 7,758 m (25,453 ft), one of the deepest locations of the Atlantic Ocean. This trench, however, is not regarded as the boundary between the North and South American Plates, nor the Eurasian and African Plates. LINK

The definition of a Rift is:

Rift System: The oceanic ridges formed where tectonic plates are separating and a new crust is being created; also, their on-land counterparts such as the East African     Rift.

Rift Zone: A zone of volcanic features associated with underlying dikes. The location of the rift is marked by cracks, faults, and vents.

What is largely unknown to the general population is that we have an active Rift in the Southwestern United States called the Rio Grande Rift. It is my belief that this rift zone which begins in Mexico and travels through New Mexico and into Northern Colorado could have been the cause of Colorado’s 5.3 Earthquake. There are GPS devices positioned throughout the Rio Grande Rift, and based on those GPS stations, we know that the rift itself has not experienced any significant widening because of this quake, however, that in itself does not rule out that the rift could have been responsible for said quake. We also know that this rift has been responsible for past earthquakes in the general vicinity and therefore can not rule out that the Rio Grande Rift was directly responsible for Colorado’s recent Earthquake:

Earthquake Hazard Posed by the Rio Grande Rift


Earthquake hazard is estimated from one or more of three types of information:


Earthquakes in the ANSS combined catalog, 1962 to present.

Historical earthquakes in the vicinity of the Rio Grande Rift (including west Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and southeastern Wyoming) hint at the potential for larger events in the future. An 1882 earthquake west of Fort Collins, CO had moment magnitude 6.6 (plus or minus 0.6), and there have been four earthquakes with magnitude greater than 5 in the past forty years.

To be useful for understanding earthquake hazard, seismicity should be observed from a dense seismic network over a long period of time (i.e., most of an earthquake cycle). In the Rio Grande Rift region, we have neither a good seismic network nor a long historical record. Written records in the region extend back only 150 to 300 years (and are longest in New Mexico), but the earthquake recurrence interval on major faults is at least 5000 years (see next section!). Also, the CO-WY-NM region has had poorer seismic instrument coverage than any other earthquake-prone region in the western United States (for example, until very recently there were two or fewer permanent seismographs in the entire state of Colorado).

In the map at left, seismicity in the Intermountain Seismic Belt (the dense cloud of earthquakes in Utah and stretching along the Idaho-Wyoming border to Yellowstone) is well-measured down to about magnitude 2 or 2.5, because of a dense (<50 km-spaced) network of seismographs maintained by the University of Utah. By comparison, the catalog in the RGR is well-measured only down to about magnitude 3.5 or 4. Consequently, spatial concentrations of background seismicity and other important information such as magnitude-frequency relations are very poorly known in this region. http://aconcagua.geol.usu.edu/~arlowry/RGR/RGR_EQHaz.htm

We are presenting this information for public evaluation. The area where the most recent quake occurred falls within this rift zone, and as demonstrated by the above article and graphic, quakes generated by this phenomena do not have to strike directly within the rift zone.  This may or may not be the cause of the recent earthquake, however, until another explanation is offered by the geological community I am leaning toward the Rio Grande Rift  as the most logical catalyst of Colorado’s recent 5.3 Earthquake. I’ll  leave it up to the public and scientific community to eventually present a definitive explanation of this recent event, however, will not be surprised if our hypothesis is correct. The historic earthquake activity associated with this rift zone would seem to support our observation(s).


In our opinion there has been an abnormal amount of earthquakes that have recently rattled the United States. Those that I believe deserve particular concern are the two magnitude 4.0 earthquakes which struck smack-dab at the northernmost and southernmost boundaries of the Cascadia subduction Zone within the past two weeks.  Again, these may be nothing to be concerned about, but knowing that the Cascadia Subduction Zone is one of the most dangerous Mega-thrust earthquake zones in the continental United States, forewarning those that live in this area is a reasonable, if not a necessity in respect to the incredible disaster that would devastate that area if such an event should strike without any appreciable warning.

Furthermore, there has also been a lot of activity along the San Andreas Fault. Some of these recent quakes have struck exactly on the fault line which can be indicative of two possible scenarios;

1.  Small earthquakes along a fault zone have been known to relieve small amounts of stress within the fault(s)s and in that regard, can be looked upon as a positive event.

2. Low magnitude quakes along an active fault line can be indicative that the stress is rising and could signal that a larger, more destructive event is imminent.

I have no idea, other than climate change, that is causing the increased seismically throughout the United States and the global community. From a purely statistical standpoint, there are several faults throughout the West Coast that are overdue for large and potentially destructive events – and so far, especially with the disasters that we have seen throughout the Ring of Fire, we have been living on borrowed time. I have always believed that to predict our future we have to understand our past,  and history and solid geological evidence tends to predict that a major event(s) is far overdue to cause a terrible disaster within these United States. Being prepared could save you and your family’s lives – and to disregard the geological mechanisms that control these events when we know they will happen sometime in the near future is possibly as dangerous as the coming disasters themselves.

Related Article & Comments at Op-Ed News:

The Link Between Climate Change and Geological Disruption: Can Global Warming Be A Cause of Earthquakes?

Editors Note:

I stated that I would update “A 5.9 Earthquake Has Rattled The East Coast And Yesterday, Colorado Experienced Their Largest Quake In 40 Years.” There was too much content to attach to the original article, therefore chose to address the recent Colorado Earthquake in a separate piece. Please excuse the delay in posting this update.

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