A series of tremors rocked southern California over the past few months, beginning on July 4 when a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit the Mojave Desert. This was followed by a 7.1 quake the next day, and subsequently an astonishing 100,000 aftershocks in the following weeks and months. Now, researchers have claimed that these tremors have increased the tension along the Garlock Fault which could result in a major earthquake.
When it finally blows, scientists have warned, it will “be big”.
The lesser-known fault line is 160 miles long, with the ability to produce an earthquake magnitude of 8 or more.
Any shocks generated by the fault – located at the northern edge of the Mojave Desert – would send crippling seismic activity south and west towards Los Angeles, Ventura and Bakersfield counties.
Bill Barnhart, a geodesist at the University of Iowa and lead author of the study, said: “The aseismic creep tells us the Garlock Fault is sensitive to stress changes, and that stresses increased across only a limited area of the fault.
“So, if — and that’s a big if — this area were to slip in a future earthquake, we are showing where that might happen.
“The Garlock Fault has been quiet for a long time. But there’s geologic evidence that there have been large earthquakes on it. It’s a major fault line.”
The research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, said that the earthquake could be around a magnitude of 6.7 to 7.0.
While this would not be as powerful as the Big One – an impending massive earthquake which will inevitably one day rock California to the core with a tremor over 7.8 – it is still incredibly strong.
The USGS has said it will be at least a 7.9 on the Richter scale and will leave a trail of destruction.
Another reason why California is so earthquake-prone is that it sits upon the dreaded Pacific Ring of Fire.
The Ring of Fire is the largest and most active fault line in the world, stretching from New Zealand, around the east coast of Asia, over to Canada and the USA and all the way down to the southern tip of South America and causes more than 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes.
The plates which make up the Ring of Fire are so huge even the slightest shift results in massive tremors, volcano activity and tsunamis.