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Fault running from San Diego to LA could cause 7.3 magnitude quake

10 March 2017

The U.S. Geological Survey has released a new study that says we could be overdue for a major natural disaster from the San Andreas Fault along the Grapevine - in the Tejon Pass near Frazier Mountain in northeastern Kern County - that would shake the Los Angeles basin for several minutes. "Even if you have a high 5 or low 6 magnitude quake, it can still have a major impact on those regions, which are some of the most densely populated in California". A stepover is a section in between faults where they don't directly meet. The only question is how long it will be before the "Big One" strikes. Most of the earliest quakes "appear to be quite large", between magnitude-7.0 and magnitude-7.5, said study lead author Kate Scharer of the USGS. Researchers discovered evidence that quakes happened prior to that in the region, though they could not measure a magnitude.

Researchers primarily focus on land-based faults, such as the San Andreas and Elsinore systems.

A simulation of a possible magnitude 8 unzipping from Monterey County into L.A. County shows heavy shaking waves reverberating across a wide swath of the Los Angeles Basin and nearby valleys, whose soft soils can trap shaking energy like Jell-O. Between Newport Beach and Seal Beach, it runs underground, parallel to the coast, before moving inland to Culver City.

The San Andreas Fault extends roughly 1,300km (800 miles) through California.

The team identified four segments of the fault that are horizontally offset in a pattern known as stepovers.

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The threat has overshadowed the danger poses by offshore faults.

The conclusion that 7.9 earthquakes there are relatively rare could be good news, said Caltech seismologist Egill Hauksson, who was not involved in the study. There's no denying that. Graves said the damage from an quake that powerful could be significant across the region. "Those are the critical pieces".

The Newport-Inglewood/Rose Canyon fault zone exhibits a mainly continuous fault trace over four distinct segments.

The fault system hosted a 6.4-magnitude quake near Long Beach, California in 1933. That event killed 115 people and spurred changes in, among other things, school construction.

The estimate for the likelihood that California will experience a magnitude 8 or larger quake in the next 30 years has increased from about 4.7% to about 7.0%, they say. The last major temblor occurred 160 years ago, rupturing 185 miles of the San Andreas fault.

Fault running from San Diego to LA could cause 7.3 magnitude quake