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Part of the San Andreas Fault is poised for an imminent earthquake: a study

Part of the San Andreas Fault is poised for an imminent earthquake: a study


Remote sections along California's massive San Andreas Fault, where large earthquakes regularly occur, could be poised to shake again any day now, a new study shows.

The area around Parkfield in Monterey County typically experiences an earthquake of magnitude 6 or greater every 22 years on average. Its last earthquake was in 2004, but that earthquake came 14 years late.

Scientists studying the fault for signs of when the next quake will strike believe they have discovered unique seismic activity that indicates a powerful earthquake may occur as soon as this year, according to a study published March 22 in the journal Frontiers in Earth Science.

“We're waiting,” Luca Malagini, lead author of the study and director of research at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Italy, told Live Science.

The San Andreas Fault Line, which runs about 800 miles across California, marks the boundary between the Pacific and Northern tectonic plates, according to the outlet.

A bridge over the San Andreas Fault crosses from the Pacific Ocean to the North American tectonic plates in California. AFP via Getty Images

Parkfield lies at a transitional portion of a fault line that causes “very simple geometry and behavior,” Malagini wrote in the study.

South of Parkfield, the fault is closed, and the two plates do not rub against each other. North of Parkfield, the plates are rubbing against each other at a steady rate of 1.4 inches per year, according to Live Science.

Although the earthquakes typically produced there are larger than magnitude 6, the quakes do not pose a threat to humans or property because of the remote location, Malanini said.

Malagnini said the study found there were signs that Parkfield was entering the final stage of hibernation

While the exact date of the next quake cannot be predicted, Malanini believes it will happen this year — although researchers “could not find signs that Parkfield's strength had reached its critical state yet,” according to the study.

By analyzing data from the weeks leading up to the 2004 earthquake, scientists noticed similar patterns between seismic waves in the region as they moved through the Earth's crust. Scientists said a similar process is happening now, although the epicenter of the next earthquake may be in a different location.

Meanwhile, a 4.8-magnitude earthquake shook the New York City metro area across the country on Friday, the largest quake since 1884.




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