The Rio Grande Rift, an important site in human history, extends from the middle of Colorado down to New Mexico. Following the Rio Grande River, this rift has given life to such cities as Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and El Paso.
This area had long been thought of as a dead zone for earthquake activity, until GPS technology recently noticed slight activity in the Rio Grande Rift. This technology is designed to measure even the slightest movement in the earth, and the feedback from the rift is slowly increasing. Currently the growth is at a very slow rate, and before this GPS technology was set up it was virtually undetected.
Anne Sheehan, a seismologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, was involved in the GPS-based research. She believes "there is certainly potential for earthquakes in this region. They would be very low-probability events, but like all earthquakes, they could have large consequences if they do happen."
The study used almost 300 different GPS stations to monitor the rift over a four year period. Though the rift is expanding at only 0.1 millimetres yearly, it is definitely spreading. These measurements are large enough to prove the rift is indeed not dead.
Although the technology cannot predict exactly when and where an earthquake will happen, the use of GPS helps people find the locations of the rift. These sites can then be monitored to determine if they are at a high-risk for future earthquakes.