PALM SPRINGS, Calif. (AP) _ Southern California's first earthquake of the new year struck in the desert 17 miles northwest of Palm Springs on Thursday, measuring a modest 3.6 on the Richter scale, a California Institute of Technology spokesman said.

The quake struck at 12:25 a.m., said Robert Finn. He wasn't sure whether the temblor was an aftershock of a series of earthquakes that struck the Palm Springs area in July.

Police in Palm Springs, about 100 miles east of Los Angeles, reported no damage.

The Richter scale is a measure of ground motion as recorded on seismographs. Every increase of one number means a tenfold increase in the strenth of the shaking. Thus, a reading of 3.6 reflects an earthquake 10 times stronger than one of 2.6.