Number of earthquakes in the area up drastically

If you happen to find yourself practicing your emergency earthquake plans in anticipation of the “Big One” in Southern California, you are not alone.

The year 2010 has experienced a significant increase in the number or earthquakes, with 70 more significant earthquakes in the last four months. The intensity of the earthquakes has increased with the frequency, with many of the quakes measuring above 4.0-point on the Richter scale.

With all this talk of earthquakes buzzing, the questionable “Big One” is on the tip of many tongues.

Egill Hauksson, a geophysicist at Caltech, said to the LA Times that Southern California residents should expect bigger earthquakes and more earthquakes in the next few years.

“What it means is that we are going to have more earthquakes than in the average year,” Hauksson said. “With more earthquakes, we’re bound to have more bigger ones. But there are always fewer of those than the smaller ones.”

Earthquake experts insist that larger quakes occur in cycles. Until now the Southern California region was a reasonably quiet area but might be about to enter a much more active state.

Earthquakes have been at the forefront of the media lately. The first major earthquake of 2010 hit in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and killed hundreds of thousands of people; two months later, Chile experienced an 8.8-magnitude earthquake.

In early April, an earthquake with an epicenter in Mexicali, Mexico shook several homes in Baja California and created temblors from Southern California to Arizona.

Experts said scientists can never be sure what causes an earthquake or what creates a cycle, as the movements of the tectonic plates in the earth are random.

One possibility, said Kate Hutton to the LA Times, a seismologist at Caltech, is that one fault line might change and stress out another plate, creating an earthquake in what scientists call the “cascade effect.”

“If that fault is ready to produce an earthquake anyway, it might do something. But it would have to be pretty close” for that to happen, she said.