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Researchers: Arizona growing in physical size annually

PHOENIX -- Arizona is getting bigger every year, researcher said.

Using about 50 locations equipped with GPS technology around the state, researchers have determined that the movement of tectonic plates miles below the surface of Earth is causing Arizona to grow.

University of Arizona professor Rick Bennett said Arizona is part of the Pacific-North American plate boundary zone. The zone produces the largest earthquakes in the United States, but Arizona is in a "quiet" area of it despite the growth.

"As the plates move relative to one another, the surface of the earth responds," said Bennett. "It deforms and stretches -- in the case of Arizona -- causing faulting and contributing to the development of our mountain ranges."

Bennett said that Arizona mountains are slowly separating.

While there have been earthquakes in Arizona, Bennett said the last one that would have measured stronger than 7.0 on the Richter scale happened about 100,000 years ago.

Bennett said that Arizona expands about 3,000 square feet every year, equivalent to the size of a five-bedroom house.

"The expansion is occurring somewhere between Arizona's east and west boundaries, but we have not yet identified exactly where that stretching is taking place," he said.

When asked if Arizona is pushing California out into the Pacific Ocean, Bennett said there is two ways to look at things.

"You can think of it that way, or you can think of it that California is stretching out into the ocean and pulling Arizona out with it."

Bennett hopes that the continued study of what's going on under Arizona will lead scientists to find ways to more accurately predict when and where earthquakes will happen.

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About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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