Can you feel it? We're having a 6.7 quake now

Can you feel it? We're having a 6.7 quake now
SEATTLE -- We have about 1,000 earthquakes every year in Washington and Oregon. The 6.8 Nisqually quake from 2001 certainly showed us the Earth's power.

Did you know the ground beneath is rumbling again right now? You can't feel it, but it is moving about 25 miles below us.

UW Professor Ken Creager points to a crude map on the computer, "We're confident that the tremor's going on down in this area."

That area is under Bremerton and southern Hood Canal.

"It's nothing very interesting to look at on the seismograph, it just looks like wind noise," he said.

But, for Creager and his colleagues, this is exciting stuff. Those 25 miles below us, they can watch the earth move in real time.

Scientists call this a slow tremor. It happens once about every 14 months.

They mapped it for the first time in July 2004. Even though the ground's moving beneath us again, we can't feel it. If we could measure it, it would have a magnitude of about 6.7. And that's just about what California's Northridge and our local Nisqually quakes were.

However, those happened over a period of about 15 to 20 seconds. The ground moving below us right now will occur over about 15 to 20 days.

"It's still releasing the same amount of strain energy, but it's just taking a long time so it's not felt, it doesn't do damage," Creager said.

This slow tremor started Sunday and may last another week or more. But the movement is so slight -- just a fraction of an inch -- that researchers needed a new network to track it.

Creager and a team of volunteers set out 100 temporary seismographs to record the hidden movement.

"And we'll use it much like a telescope to be able to image where the energy's coming from in great detail," Creager said.

That will show them where the earth is moving.

Seismologists know these deep tremors put extra strain on the two plates under the Pacific Northwest, but how much?

"What we want to understand is how far in toward Seattle and the urban corridor that rupture will continue and generate earthquake waves," said UW Seismology Lab Supervisor Bill Steele.

Does that mean a major earthquake could be just around the corner?

"The general consensus is that we don't really know enough about the problem yet to say anything concrete about it yet, but it's possible," Creager said, adding possible, but not probable.

But perhaps their research could provide a prediction of just when we might experience a major quake.

If you want to follow the current slow tremor, just click here and look for their daily updates: www.pnsn.org