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Scientists Looking For Large Local Quake

Imagine for a second that the San Andres and San Gabriel faults erupted in the same moment. The result could devastate Southern California.

Aired 7/26/12 on KPBS News.

Imagine for a second that the San Andres and San Gabriel faults erupted in the same moment. The result could devastate Southern California.

The colored circles on the large map indicate the complex spatial rupture pattern as a function of time during the Sumatra earthquake in April 2012. The white star indicates the epicenter of the magnitude-8.6 mainshock. The area shaded in darker red in the inset indicates the location of the area of study.
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Above: The colored circles on the large map indicate the complex spatial rupture pattern as a function of time during the Sumatra earthquake in April 2012. The white star indicates the epicenter of the magnitude-8.6 mainshock. The area shaded in darker red in the inset indicates the location of the area of study.

That’s what happened off the coast of Indonesia in April of this year. The earthquake was too far from the land to cause any destruction, and no one was hurt, but the result was an 8.1 magnitude quake, the largest of its type that scientists had ever seen.

Now researchers at Caltech in Pasadena are wondering if that could happen in Southern California. They’re looking at the faults to see if any similar phenomena has happened over the past thousand or so years.

Joann Stock, professor of geology and geophysics, said there are very distinct differences between the faults under the Indian Ocean and the California faults. Still, the team's interest is now spiked.

“We couldn’t rule it out. If we found that it had happened here we would be a lot more nervous,” she said.

In light of the Indonesian quake, researchers say the possibility of an eruption along multiple fault lines here, and with it the devastating consequences across our region, is now ripe for study.

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