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Large-Scale Motion' Detected at San Andreas Fault, Is the Big Earthquake Coming?

Jun 23, 2016 06:11 AM EDT
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Geologist recorded for the first time the rising and sinking of areas surrounding the San Andreas Fault.
(Photo : David McNew / Staff)

The Earth is moving constantly but is the big one coming? Reports say that "seismic strain" are happening around the San Andreas fault causing an alarm to many.

Scientists used computer imaging to show how a large part of California seems to be rising and sinking surrounding the San Andreas Fault. This is a result of seismic strain that can potentially cause a large Earthquake.

The San Andreas Fault is considered hazardous once it releases a huge earthquake because it extends to up to 800 miles in through California. Scientists have long been suggesting that the areas surrounding the fault are rising and sinking and are moving very slowly. Data supports the claim because the fault sits between two gigantic tectonic plates, the Pacific and North American, according to Los Angeles Times.

The two tectonic plates constantly grind against each other causing the earth to move. And after long years of research, scientists were finally able to produce an image to prove their point.

The said study was published in the journal of Nature Geoscience. The study suggests that Los Angeles Basin, Orange County, San Diego County and Bakersfield are sinking two to three millimeters each year while Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and a large part of San Bernardino are rising.

Although some movements from the fault can be predicted, the study says that the vertical motions caused by tectonic movements remain elusive. To aid the study, the EarthScope Plate Boundary Observatory's GPS to pinpoint the specific movement of the areas surrounding the fault.

"While the San Andreas GPS data has been publicly available for more than a decade, the vertical component of the measurements had largely been ignored in tectonic investigations because of difficulties in interpreting the noisy data. Using this technique, we were able to break down the noisy signals to isolate a simple vertical motion pattern that curiously straddled the San Andreas Fault," Samuel Howell from the University of Hawaii said in a statement published by TechTimes.

Because of this technology scientists were able to record the data for the first time paving the way for digital images to prove that the movements are indeed happening.

But geologists would not want to cause panic, as they are quick to say that although the movement was recorded, the shift is minimal at 1/8 inch each year. Not forgetting that other factors might also affect the rising and sinking citing that the changes in ground water underground can also be a factor in the changes.

Despite that, the San Andreas Fault remains monitored by 24/7 to quickly warn people of upcoming earthquakes. Geologists are hopeful that by understanding small-scale movements, they will be able to detect big ones in the future to save lives.


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