Two Fault Lines In San Francisco Bay Area Could Trigger A Major Earthquake

Posted: Oct 20 2016, 8:52am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 20 2016, 9:01am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 

Two Fault Lines in San Francisco Bay Area Could Trigger a Major Earthquake
Geological faults lie beneath the San Francisco Bay Area . Credit: USGS/ESA
 

New study reveals that two fault lines in Bay Area are directly connected and could lead to a devastating earthquake in the future

A combination of fault lines can trigger more powerful earthquakes than a single fault. And that’s the kind of ferocity researchers are expecting from earthquake fault lines in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Researchers from U.S. Geological Survey have recently found that two major fault lines in Bay Area are directly connected to each other. With running through simultaneously, these two faults can build up enough seismic strain to unleash a major earthquake. 

“The size of an earthquake that can occur on a fault depends on how long that fault is. So when we have two faults that are directly connected instead of separate fault segments, it makes a longer fault, and there is a possibility of a larger earthquake.” USGS geophysicist Janet Watt told Live Science

The Hayward Fault that extends from San Jose to San Pablo Bay is the most dangerous fault in the Bay Area that can erupt at anytime. Now, researchers have found that beneath San Pablo Bay, it joins with another fracture called Creek fault. If both these faults rupture simultaneously, they could produce a magnitude 7.4 earthquake. Such an earthquake would be five times stronger than Loma Prieta – a devastating earthquake that struck the Bay Area in 1989 and killed more than 60 people.

Researchers have already suspected that a number of faults in the Bay Area could act together and create a web of seismic activity. But previously the lack of cutting edge technology had made it difficult to collect high-resolution maps of faults beneath the San Pablo Bay. Using a specially designed acoustic instrument for underwater purposes, researchers were finally able to gather a significant data about the faults beneath the surface and created a new map that showed that another fault is running parallel to the Hayward fault so closely that if one could rupture it can trigger a rupture in another.

“Having a continuous fault does certainly make it easier for an earthquake rupture coming from either the north or the south to continue straight through.” Roland Burgmann, a geophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the research said.

Though Hayward fault is an active fault line, it has not produced a major quake in more than 140 years. The last time it broke was in 1868 when a magnitude of 6.8 quake shook the ground, killing 30 people. So if the fault broke in future, it will likely produce a more devastating earthquake. Knowing how strong a quake could be in the future is helpful from preparation’s perspective.

"We always need reminders that earthquakes occur, because they can happen so infrequently," said Watt.” And we need to be prepared for something stronger than the Lomo Prieta."

 

 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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