California mega-earthquake fear: Is the San Andreas fault at the risk of the ‘Big One’?

This segment of the San Andreas Fault, Palmdale, California, about 60 miles (100 km) northwest of Los Angeles. The picture is taken from the Space Shuttle Endeavor on Feb. 11, 2000.


New research suggests that a newly discovered ‘structure’ in the San Andreas fault can result in a massive earthquake, often referred to as the “big one.”

The geological study, written in the journal Lithosphere, the detail that there is a 15 to 20 kilometer long stretch of the San Andreas fault that could result in an earth with a magnitude of seven or more.

The research to put the odds at 75% that it would occur in both northern and southern California sometime in the next 30 years.


“This newly identified Durmid ladder structure is an extensive, right-reverse fault zone that extends across Durmid Hill rotating domains of regularly spaced, left – and right-lateral cross faults,” a research article about the study reads.

The research was conducted by Susanne Jänecke, Daniel Markowski, James Evans, Patricia Persaud and Miles Kenney.

The possible cause of a magnitude 7 or higher earthquake is the result of what is known as “slow earthquakes” or slow-slip events (SSEs) that remained unnoticed by the man.

“Temporary episodes of creep acceleration, known as slow-slip events (SSEs), have been interpreted as earthquake precursors and as a possible triggering factor for large earthquakes,” the researchers Mostafa Khoshmanesh and Manoochehr Shirzaei wrote in an article published in Nature, which is acquired by the Daily Mail.

The Durmid ladder structure is located in the Durmid Hill region of southern California, an area that is highly faulted and between 0.6 and 2.5 km wide. It has a broken ladder-like appearance, hence the name.


If an earthquake occurs and both the Durmid ladder structure and the San Andreas Fault itself collapsed, would be felt over an area of 15 square miles, but the precise effects are difficult to accurately predict, due to the size and shape of both structures.

However, the research provides a number of parameters of where destruction could occur.

“The East Coast fault appears to continue to the north for more than 100 km beyond the Mecca and Indio Hills along the northeast margin of the Coachella Valley, where a southwest-dipping basin-fill deposits are excavated on the northeast side,” the study reads. “The lines 4 and 5 of the Salton Seismic Imaging Project highlights errors, which strike the East Coastline fault and occupy the same structural position as the East Coast fault in comparison with the San Andreas fault.”

The “big one” has been warned about multiple times before, with the U. S. Geological Survey to write extensively on the subject, including the use in the past earthquakes to better predict the future.

Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia

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