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San Andreas may be preparing for an earthquake, seismologists say

San Andreas may be preparing for an earthquake, seismologists say


Scientists believe the notorious San Andreas Fault Zone could produce an earthquake any day now.

The San Andreas Fault, the boundary section between two massive tectonic plates beneath the Earth's surface, extends more than 800 miles across California. Plates are relatively stable, which means they can develop significant stresses over time. When they move, they can produce large earthquakes.

A new paper published in the journal Frontiers in Earth Science by researchers from the University of California at Berkeley, the US Geological Survey and the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Rome, Italy, focused on part of the fault in Parkfield, California.

The region produces earthquakes with a pattern approximately every 22 years, more or less. While earthquakes are extremely difficult to predict, this pattern is invaluable to biologists who study the fault line.

The stock image shows a song marking the San Andreas bug. Scientists have predicted that an area of ​​a fault line in California may be on the verge of causing an earthquake. The stock image shows a song marking the San Andreas bug. Scientists have predicted that an area of ​​a fault line in California may be on the verge of causing an earthquake. Gary Kavanagh/Getty

The last earthquake in Parkfield occurred in 2004 – some 14 years later – which means another one must be imminent. So scientists want to know if there might be a better way to predict earthquakes.

Scientists found that before the recent earthquake in the region, there was a decrease in increased energy in low-frequency seismic waves, while there was a decrease in high-frequency waves. This is known as attenuation and occurred over a period of six weeks before the last earthquake.

“We cannot find signs that Parkfield severity has reached a critical state yet,” the authors wrote in the study.

This does not mean that the earthquake is not building up, because the fault line could behave differently this time.

For example, researchers have observed a stress zone in fault zones that can eventually trigger an earthquake. However, this would likely result in an earthquake with a more displaced epicenter.

“We note that between 2001 and the end of 2003, the attenuation coefficient variation increased significantly, before declining at the end of 2003, coinciding with the occurrence of the San Simeon earthquake,” the authors wrote. “A somewhat similar increase in variance began in 2011 and continued roughly until the beginning of 2020. Finally, in mid-2021, attenuation parameter variation appeared on the Pacific side of [San Andreas Fault] “It fell to very small values ​​and has not recovered to its level since.”

The results could also help researchers predict future earthquakes. Luca Malagini, of Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, told Live Science that an earthquake could happen this year, but it's not possible to say for sure.

“I will wait for the next earthquake,” Malagnini said. “And then we'll look back.”

Fortunately, the Parkfield area is densely populated like other areas along the fault line, so earthquakes are not as devastating. There have long been concerns that a massive earthquake, dubbed the “Big One,” along the San Andreas Fault is overdue because multiple segments appear to be significantly strained.

The USGS previously predicted a 6.7-magnitude earthquake would occur along the fault line within the next 30 years.

Do you have advice on a science story Newsweek should cover? Do you have a question about earthquakes? Let us know at [email protected].

Uncommon knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.




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