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Southern California Overdue For Large Magnitude Earthquake

Audio

Aired 3/22/10

Recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, and smaller quakes in Southern California have some people wondering when the big one will hit here. Scientists say we are due, but when is anyone's guess.

Recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, and smaller quakes in Southern California have some people wondering when the big one will hit here. Scientists say we are due, but when is anyone's guess.

Dozens of magnitude 3.0 or larger earthquakes have struck California and Mexico since January. Does it mean a big one is coming?

"We don't really know," said Dr. Nancy King, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena. "People have looked for patterns in every possible way. And except for the pattern that after an earthquake there are usually aftershocks, we really haven't found anything."

The San Andreas Fault runs north to south in California and through Baja, Mexico. It forms the tectonic boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate.

King said the movement of those plates will cause a major earthquake in Southern California.

"The big one is going to be on the San Andreas Fault of around magnitude 8.0," said King. "And the last one that occurred on the Southern San Andreas was in 1857 when there were very few people here and therefore not much damage."

King said just because there hasn't been a large magnitude quake in the region for decades, Californians should not be lulled into a false sense of security.

"People should realize they live in earthquake country," said King. "We can't predict earthquakes. But someday there will be another big one on the San Andreas or there will be magnitude 7.0 on faults within the Los Angeles Basin, which will be a real disaster. So people need to be ready."

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