Aug 24, 2011 8:04 PM by Stephanie Collins

The USGS wants to learn more about earthquakes in southern Colorado

The aftershocks from Monday night's 5.3 magnitude earthquake, near Trinidad, continued today.

The USGS says a 3.0 quake hit around 1:15 this morning; it was centered about 20 miles southwest of Trinidad. The second aftershock this morning hit just after 4:30, 11 miles west of Trinidad, and had a magnitude of 2.5.

The USGS says the aftershocks could continue for a couple more weeks. Some of them will be so small however; you probably won't be able to feel them. In the meantime the USGS is putting in temporary seismometers to record the activity.

We were on site with the USGS today as they installed the meters. They've planted four in Las Animas County, near the center of the large quake that hit Monday night, "The earthquake on Monday was unexpected, we have lots of little earthquakes around this area, but to have a magnitude 5.3 is unusual," adds Daniel Bowden with USGS.

The seismometers record ground motion. Most of the damage from the large quake seems to be in areas southwest of Trinidad. Since then there have been several smaller aftershocks. The USGS wants to figure out if another large earthquake could hit this area, "We can't predict earthquakes, nobody can predict exactly when it's going to hit. The best thing we can do is say what the probabilities are," says Bowden.

To get an accurate reading, the seismometer is placed in a bucket, on a flat surface, and then it's surrounded with insulation, because temperature changes can disrupt it. Then the container is sealed and buried underground in a relatively remote area. The hope now is that the meter will send back some information they can really use, "We want to be able to tell homeowners what's going on and why, and should they be worried about one in the future," explains Bowden.

The seismometers they put in the ground today are temporary; they'll be in the ground for at least the next three weeks. All the data recorded goes to the USGS headquarters in Golden.

To look at a map of the most recent activity in southern Colorado, click here.



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