San Andreas fault 'overdue for big quake'

New earthquake research confirms the southern end of the San Andreas fault near Los Angeles is overdue for a Big One.

New earthquake research confirms the southern end of the San Andreas fault near Los Angeles is overdue for a Big One.

The lower section of the fault has not produced a major earthquake in more than three centuries. The new study, which analysed 20 years of data and is considered one of the most detailed analyses yet, found that stress has been building up since then, and that the fault could rupture at any moment.

“The southern section of the fault is fully loaded for the next big event,” said geophysicist Yuri Fialko of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla.

Predicting exactly when that might happen, however, is beyond scientists’ ability. The analysis is published in tomorrow’s issue of the journal Nature.

Experts have estimated that a quake on the southern San Andreas of magnitude-7.6 or greater could kill thousands of people in the densely populated greater Los Angeles area and cause tens of billions of dollars in damage.

It was the 800-mile San Andreas fault, which runs down California like a scar, that caused the deadly 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

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