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

The study also found evidence that, along the onshore segment of the system, three to five ruptures had happened in the last 11,000 years on the northern end, whereas one quake occurred roughly 400 years ago on the southern end. At that time, the population of the entire state of California was less than 100,000 people. The small size of the three stepovers that link four main parts of the Newport-Inglewood and Rose Canyon fault system make them unlikely to be able to stop an natural disaster spreading throughout the whole system.

Southern California is capable of a magnitude 7.3 natural disaster, a new analysis of the region's coast fault systems revealed.

They identified four segments of the strike-slip fault that are broken up by what geoscientists call stepovers, points where the fault is horizontally offset.

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However, the researchers found that the stepover Newport-Inglewood/Rose Canyon (NIRC) fault are just about two kilometers wide or less.

If the southern onshore segment of the fault system ruptured at the same time, it could trigger a magnitude 7.4 quake.

Prior to this study, the Newport-Inglewood and Rose Canyon faults were believed to be separate systems.

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According to the researchers, the system runs offshore from San Diego Bay to Seal Beach in Orange County, and then on land through the Los Angeles basin.

A press release by the American Geophysical Union cites Sahakian: "This system is mostly offshore but never more than four miles from the San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles County coast".

When conducting research, the team processed seismic surveys from the past and added in high-resolution bathymetric data, gathered offshore by Scripps researchers between 2006 and 2009, in addition to seismic surveys conducted aboard former Scripps research vessels. Finer mapping of the region showed that the faults are actually closely connected, according to a study in in the Journal of Geophysical Research. She is now a postdoctoral fellow with the U.S. Geological Survey. Some researchers also have suspected that the systems were connected in some way offshore. As a result, an quake triggered at the fault could reach up to magnitude 7.4. "It's not a hugely active fault compared to other faults like the San Andreas". By contrast, the natural disaster that hit central Italy in August, killing hundreds of people, was magnitude 6.2, and the quake that hit San Francisco in 1989, killing 69 people and causing billions of dollars in damage, was magnitude 6.9.

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