Can you prevent large earthquakes by making lots of small ones, or by "lubricating" the fault with water or another material?
Seismologists have observed that for every magnitude 6 earthquake there are 10 of magnitude 5, 100 of magnitude 4, 1,000 of magnitude 3, and so forth as the events get smaller and smaller. This sounds like a lot of small earthquakes, but there are never enough small ones to eliminate the occasional large event. It would take 32 magnitude 5's, 1000 magnitude 4's, or 32,000 magnitude 3's to equal the energy of one magnitude 6 event. So, even though there are many more small events than large ones, there are never enough to eliminate the need for the occasional large earthquake.
As for "lubricating" faults with water or some other substance, injecting high pressure fluids deep into the ground is known to be able to trigger earthquakes to occur sooner than would have been the case without the injection. However, this would be a dangerous pursuit in any populated area, as one might trigger a damaging earthquake.
Contributing source: USGS
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