Is California prepared for a major earthquake? Seismologists say the "big one" is on the way, and this time it will hit Los Angeles.
Yuri Fialko of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who is investigating the San Andreas Fault, has produced a new prediction for the earthquake potential of the fault?s southern, highly populated section. The new study shows that the fault is now stressed to a level that could lead to the next "big one"?an earthquake of a magnitude of seven or greater?and the risk of a large earthquake in this region may be increasing faster than researchers had believed.
Historical records show that the San Andreas Fault experienced massive earthquakes in 1857 at its central section and in 1906 at its northern segment (which caused the San Francisco earthquake). The southern section of the fault, however, has not produced an earthquake in at least 300 years.
Although seismologists have not been able to predict when a great earthquake will occur on the southern San Andreas, most believe such an event is inevitable. Fialko has produced the clearest evidence to date of the strain buildup that will ultimately result in a large earthquake along the southern San Andreas Fault, a 100-mile segment that cuts through Palm Springs, San Bernardino and Riverside. Such an event would be felt in the major populated areas of Los Angeles and San Diego.
Fialko says, "For the public the most important result of this study is that these data show definitively that the fault is a significant seismic hazard and is primed for another big earthquake. All these data suggest that the fault is ready for the next big earthquake but exactly when the triggering will happen and when the earthquake will occur we cannot tell. It could be tomorrow or it could be 10 years or more from now."
Ker Than writes in LiveScience.com that one way seismologists like Fialko can predict big quakes is by studying slow moving, "silent" earthquakes that last for weeks or months. These slow-moving quakes trigger swarms of tiny quakes and these small quakes, in turn, are a preliminary sign that a big one is on the way.
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