Science & Technology



July 4th earthquake won't delay the Big One. And it might have worsened quake strain

Rong-Gong Lin Ii, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

A: No.

Consider: One part of California, west of the San Andreas, is constantly moving northwest, toward Alaska, relative to the other side of the Golden State, which is headed toward Mexico.

These immense forces are what generated the state's mountains, from the ranges seen in the Los Angeles Basin to the hills lining the ridges of the Bay Area. There's a reason why earthquake faults are often alongside hills and mountains.

"If you see mountains in California, that means something is moving up those mountains faster than erosion is wearing them down," Jones said in an interview published last year. "Basically, when you see mountains, think earthquakes in California."

It's also the reason why California has been home to lucrative deposits of oil. It's the reason where there are springs in the desert giving rise to places like Palm Springs.

There is no avoiding, eventually, big earthquakes being unleashed on faults somewhere in this state. We just don't know exactly when or where it'll happen. But just as it's happened before in centuries and millennia past, it will happen again.


Q: Explain a bit more about why there are quakes in California.

A: Think about the San Andreas fault. It's a doozy of a fault -- more than 800 miles long. Just the southern San Andreas fault, between Monterey County to close to the Mexican border, is capable of producing a magnitude 8.2 quake.

Relatively speaking, places on the southwest side of the San Andreas fault -- such as Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Barbara -- are inching toward Alaska. Places on the other side of the San Andreas, such as Sacramento and the Mojave Desert, are sliding toward Mexico.

But in places along faults such as the San Andreas, the land on both sides of the fault are locked, even as land farther away continues to move. Eventually, the San Andreas -- as well as other faults throughout California -- will have to rupture to relieve mounting tectonic strain.


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