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Peter Getty is a philanthropist and contributing blogger for the Huffington Post. His work and writings revolve around environmental issues. Getty's philanthropic initiatives, as well as the organizations he supports, are committed to protecting the environment and spreading environmental awareness.

Napa Earthquake : Drought :: Apples : Oranges

peter getty drought earthquakesEver since the Napa Quake, which thankfully didn’t claim any lives, there has been a lot of chatter regarding what could have caused it. Some are writing that it could be linked to the California drought and the groundwater depletion that goes along with it. Since I don’t think this thinking will likely be enough to tip the scales and cause a major political & social charge to conserve water in a more concerted way, it’s best we just dispel this pure rumor now.

It’s likely we’ll never now the direct cause, because it’s basically impossible to name the cause of an earthquake at all. In fact, we don’t yet know if the earthquake was due to the San Andreas fault lines, responsible for the 1906 quake that destroyed early San Francisco, or the Franklin Fault. That crack has been dormant 1,600,000 years.

The argument for the drought-causes-earthquake theory is that the lack of water causes stress to fault lines. What scientists are pointing out, however, is that the stress is equal to the daily stress of typical plate movement. Additionally, plate tectonics are not affected by climate change – a happy piece of mother nature that escapes the fallout.

There were earthquakes before the drought, and were the drought to end in a year, there could still be more. California has a long history of earthquakes. Napa’s was the biggest earthquake in northern California since 1989.

It’s best we completely separate the causes of earthquakes and the causes of drought; we can’t do anything about the former, and it’s up to us to rectify the latter.

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