'No Way to Know' If Small Quakes Shaking South Carolina Are Preceding Something Bigger

There is no way to know if the small earthquakes shaking South Carolina are preceding something bigger, a geology professor said.

On Wednesday morning, 2.6-magnitude earthquake was reported close to Elgin, approximately 25 miles northeast of Columbia, South Carolina, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Officials said the earthquake was measured at a depth of 0.5 kilometers. Another quake, registering a magnitude of 1.5, was reported in the area seven hours later.

Since December 27, ten earthquakes, including the two on Wednesday, have been reported in the South Carolina, making geologists question how long the shaking will last.

College of Charleston geology professor Steven Jaume told the Associated Press that it's unknown if the earthquakes are foreshadowing something bigger. He mentioned that preceding shocks, such as those reported ahead of an 1886 earthquake that was the largest in the southeastern U.S., were "rare."

"You can't see it coming," Jaume told the AP on Wednesday. "There isn't anything obvious moving or changing that you can put your finger on that you can say, 'This is leading to this.'"

The area struck by the latest earthquake, which is home to less than 2,000 people by the border of the state's Richland and Kershaw counties, has become the epicenter of the recent series of seismic events that started on December 27 with a 3.3-magnitude earthquake. That first earthquake rattled doors and windows, creating a sound akin to a heavy piece of construction equipment rolling down a road.

Other earthquakes reported in the state recently have ranged from a magnitude of 1.7 to Wednesday's magnitude 2.6 rumbler. There have been no reported injuries or damage.

South Carolina, Nine Earthquakes, Small
Recent seismic activity started in South Carolina on December 27, when a 3.3-magnitude earthquake rattled the state's Richland and Kershaw counties. Above, a view of a seismograph at the National Seismological Service at the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, in Mexico City, is seen on September 14, 2016. Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty Images

According to the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, the state typically averages up to 20 quakes each year. Clusters often happen, like six small earthquakes in just more than a week last year near Jenkinsville, about 38 miles (61 kilometers) west of the most recent group of tremors.

Earthquakes are nothing new to South Carolina, although most tend to happen closer to the coast. According to emergency management officials, about 70% of South Carolina earthquakes are located in the Middleton Place-Summerville Seismic Zone, about 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) northwest of Charleston.

In 1886, the historic coastal city was home to the largest recorded earthquake in the history of the southeastern United States, according to seismic officials. That quake, thought to have had a magnitude of at least 7, left dozens of people dead and destroyed hundreds of buildings.

Typically, Jaume said that the recent quakes near Elgin—which lies along a large fault system that extends from Georgia through the Carolinas and into Virginia—would be characterized as aftershocks of the December 27 event, since the subsequent quakes have all been smaller than the first.

But the fact that the events keep popping up more than a week after the initial one, Jaume said, has caused consternation among the experts who study these events.

"They're not dying away the way we would expect them to," Jaume added in his comments to the AP. "What does that mean? I don't know."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.