Large-Scale Movement Detected Around San Andreas Fault System

Posted: Jun 22 2016, 1:27am CDT | by , Updated: Jun 22 2016, 10:03pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Large-Scale Movement Detected Around San Andreas Fault System
Photo Credit: Getty Images

The coherent pattern of up and downward motion could be an indication of another massive earthquake.

The San Andreas Fault System is a major zone of fractures stretching along the coastline of northwest California to the Gulf of California. Movements of tectonic plates along the fault line have caused the release of stresses ranging in magnitude from minor tremors to devastating earthquakes in the past. 

Now researchers have found new evidence of significant movement along the San Andreas Fault, which could possibily be a build up of yet another earthquake. Using GPS technology, they have discovered a massive, constant pattern of upward and downward motion in roughly 125 mile-wide Earth’s crust in the fault. This large scale motion was mentioned in previous studies as well but there was no conclusive evidence before.

“We were surprised and thrilled when this statistical method produced a coherent velocity field similar to the one predicted by our physical earthquake cycle models,” said co-author Bridget Smith-Konter from University of Hawaii at Manoa. 

“The powerful combination of a priori model predictions and a unique analysis of vertical GPS data led us to confirm that the buildup of century-long earthquake cycle forces within the crust are a dominant source of the observed vertical motion signal.”

GPS instruments are used to record the movements of tectonic plates that can be in different directions and in different speeds in a subduction zone and once the stress is released, the GPS receiver gets backs to its normal position. But the biggest challenge is how to discern the broad, regional tectonic motion from small scale, local motion.

To recognize such motions, researchers carefully analyzed the data extracted from GPS technology. The result was clear pattern of significant movement around the fault.

“While the San Andreas GPS data has been publicly available for more than a decade, the vertical component of the measurements had largely been ignored in tectonic investigations because of difficulties in interpreting the noisy data,” said lead author Samuel Howell from School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST).

“Using this technique, we were able to break down the noisy signals to isolate a simple vertical motion pattern that curiously straddled the San Andreas fault.”

These findings can help predict the behavior of San Andreas fault line, which has not released a major stress for decades but something enormous is bound to happen.

In 1906, relentless movements beneath the San Andreas Fault system caused to unleash an earthquake of magnitude of 7.8 in coast of Northern California.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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