Published: Fri, March 10, 2017
USA | By Cassandra Hanson

California fault could cause magnitude-7.4 quake

California fault could cause magnitude-7.4 quake

An natural disaster fault running from San Diego Bay to Los Angeles is capable of producing a magnitude-7.4 quake that could affect some of the region's most densely populated areas, according to a study released Tuesday. Because the stepovers in the Newport-Inglewood/Rose Canyon (NIRC) fault are two kilometers wide or less, the Scripps-led team considers a rupture of all the offshore segments is possible, said study co-author Scripps geologist and geophysicist Neal Driscoll.

"This system is mostly offshore but never more than four miles from the San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles County coast", said lead author Valerie Sahakian, who performed the work during her doctorate at Scripps. Analysts studied four sections of the fault that were offset (stepovers), and discovered the separations were not extensive enough to avert a split of the whole offshore segment of the fault.

If a stepover is more than 3km wide, it can often stop ruptures jumping from fault to fault, which limits the size of the natural disaster. The last quake on the Newport/Rose fault was a 6.4 magnitude temblor that occurred in Long Beach; it resulted in 115 deaths.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from previous seismic surveys, in addition to the high-resolution bathymetric data they have gathered between 2006 and 2009 and data from seismic surveys conducted aboard research vessels in 2013.

Up until now the Salton trough fault (STF) managed to remain hidden, despite how well-surveyed and seismically active the state of California is, because it is underwater.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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'But we know that tectonic forces are continually tightening the springs of the San Andreas fault system, making big quakes inevitable'.

The quake will probably be something few Southern Californians have ever seen.

In the last 11,000 years, there have been three to five ruptures at the north end of the fault system.

The newly identified fault line is capable of a powerful quake that would impact 20 million residents of Los Angeles and San Diego, according to a study published Tuesday. The theoretical "Cholame" epicenter of the 1857 quake is marked with the large red dot. The smaller the stepover, the more likely that a rupture of one fault will be able to jump to the next.

As a response, what planners envision is a deployment of civilian and military personnel and equipment that would eclipse the response to any natural disaster that has occurred so far in the US.

"This would be more broadly felt across the basin", Scharer said, according to The Times.

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