In the first study, the fault line is mostly offshore but never more than four miles from the San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles County coast, said study lead author Valerie Sahakian, formerly of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and now with the U.S. Geological Survey.
A new study looks at the potential for a major natural disaster along a stretch of the San Andreas Fault north of Los Angeles, site of one of the most powerful quakes ever recorded in the United States.
The Tejon Pass quake in 1857 measured an estimated 7.9 magnitude and caused a ground rupture about 210 miles long, according to the study's findings.
While the likelihood of a full rupture sits at 30-40%, lead author Valerie Sahakian, who is now a postdoctoral fellow at the USGS in Menlo Park, says that a smaller quake in the magnitude 5 or 6 range could still have a significant impact on the region.
The fault, officially known as the Newport-Inglewood/Rose Canyon fault zone, caused a 6.4-magnitude quake in Long Beach, Calif. that killed 115 people in 1933.
The study used data from older seismic surveys as well as high-resolution offshore bathymetric (underwater topography) data collected by Scripps researchers between 2006 and 2009.
The connections - or stepovers - between the main parts of the faults are less than 2Km wide.
The research team used two different methods to estimate the maximum quake that could be generated when the entire fault ruptured. And the USGS says there's a 16 percent chance an quake with at least a magnitude 7.5 will occur in the area within the next 30 years.
Scientists observing trenches at this site discovered that earthquakes on this section of the San Andreas fault occurred on average once every 100 years, according to The Times.
Scientists determined that the Newport/Rose fault was a single line by re-examining existing data and running new seismic tests.
Federal, state and military officials have been working together to draft plans to be followed when the "Big One" happens.
In the last 11,000 years, there have been three to five ruptures at the north end of the fault system.
The quake will probably be something few Southern Californians have ever seen. The smaller the stepover, the more likely that a rupture of one fault will be able to jump to the next.
"There's certainly going to be several minutes of ground shaking in the L.A. basin for a large-magnitude rupture like a 7.5 or greater", Scharer said.
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