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The report, published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America on Monday, explains there is currently aa 2.3 percent chance of an earthquake of magnitude 7.5 or greater in the next year on a region of the 160-mile-long Garlock fault along the northern border of the Mojave Desert. A hypothetical magnitude 7.8 quake on the San Andreas fault could cause more than 1,800 deaths, injure 5,000 people and force some 500,000 to 1 million people out of their homes.
Such a catastrophe could cripple the affected areas economically for a generation.
A temblor of that magnitude generates 45 times more energy than the 1994 magnitude 6.7 Northridge quake.
The incremented chances, would create a 1.15 percent chance of a large earthquake on the San Andreas fault in the next year.
The new figures mean a large temblor on the Garlock fault is now estimated to be 100 times more likely — going up from 0.023 percent in the next year to 2.3 percent.
The likelihood of a large earthquake on the San Andreas has roughly tripled, from 0.35 percent in the next year to 1.15percent, said Ross Stein, a coauthor of the study and the CEO of Temblor, a catastrophe modelling company.
Seismologist Lucy Jones, who did not take part in the study released Monday, called the report “elegant science,” however, she said that its results are not guaranteed.
Ms Jones said: “It’s really interesting science, and I like the way they’ve been able to increase the complexity of how they do their modelling.
“That’s a real advance. But it’s not yet proven.”
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However, Ms Jones said California’s government should be ready to face a situation where an earthquake instantly creates a risk of a large temblor on the San Andreas fault.
Ms Jones said: “If the Garlock happens, yes, we will be saying the San Andreas is at increased risk.
”What do you do when there’s an earthquake that could be a foreshock to the San Andreas?
“What do you say? What do you do?”
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The report is the latest indication of a potential situation in which last summer’s quakes in a distant region of California might have began a succession of events that could provoke a large-scale earthquake on the San Andreas fault.
The San Andreas fault has not been seen in Southern California in 163 years.
At its nearest, the San Andreas fault appears within 35 miles of Los Angeles city centre.
Ross Stein, an earthquake scientist emeritus of the U.S. Geological Survey and adjunct professor of geophysics at Stanford University, said: “Now, you can think of the Ridgecrest earthquake as being so far from Greater Los Angeles that it is nearly harmless.”
“But the problem is that the Ridgecrest earthquake brought the Garlock fault closer to rupture.
“If that fault ruptures — and it gets within about 25 miles of the San Andreas — then there’s a high likelihood, maybe a 50/50 shot, that it would immediately rupture on the San Andreas.”
Mr Stein added: “In a way, if the fault ruptures all at once, life is simpler. It’s done.
”But if it doesn’t — if it hangs, and plenty of faults do hang — that would put the city in a really difficult position.”
Another desolating hypothetical situation Ms Jones has commented on before was a magnitude 6 earthquake at the Cajon Pass north of San Bernardino.
Such an earthquake could originate large quakes on three major faults: the San Andreas, the San Jacinto and the Cucamonga.
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