Earthquake forecasts may be underestimating the devastation that the San Andreas fault is posing on the people living in California, according to a recent study publish in the journal "Science Advances." The statement is based on recent findings that two faults in the area are indeed connected.
The two faults mentioned were Hayward fault and the Rodgers Creek fault, both of which are part of the San Andreas fault system, according to the Verge. The former snakes from the southern tip of the Bay Area stretching its way northward to the San Pablo Bay, while the latter starts on the northern edge of San Pablo Bay and worms deeper into wine country.
Connecting Fault Could Result In a Devastating 7.4 Magnitude Quake
It's previously thought that these two faults are separated by a buffer under the bay. However, Janet Watt, who partnered with the US Geological Survey (USGS), found that this isn't the case any longer.
It's important to remember that quakes travel along where the fault stretches, meaning a longer fault will generate a far more catastrophic earthquake. And as the recent study concluded that the Hayward and Rodgers Creek fault are interconnected, a quaking event could potentially rupture both of these simultaneously.
If that were to occur, the resulting devastation would produce a 7.4 quake along their combined 118-mile stretch, reported Gizmodo. To put into perspective, the strength of the shaking would be five times stronger than the 6.9 Loma Prieta quake in 1989, which took the lives of 63 people and leaving in its wake more than $10 billion in damages.
Study Concludes That Two Faults Under the San Andreas Fault System Are Interconnected
Watt, along with a team of scientists and the USGS, made the discovery using a high-resolution sonar to peer into the shallow depths beneath San Pablo Bay. The researchers were trying to look for clues that would point them to a fault.
These signs would usually appear in areas where lines of sediment would suddenly bend or jump. They also kept an eye out for magnetic inconsistencies, which can reveal mineral alteration typically found in faults.
By combing the collected underground data with magnetic analysis, the researchers made the conclusion that the Hayward fault bends about 10 degrees to the right which smoothly connects it with the Rodgers Creek fault.
While it's near impossible to predict when such a devastating event might occur, the USGS said that there's a 72 percent chance that a major earthquake will hit the area within the next 30 years. As of now, preparations are being made to ready some 7 million Californians should worse come to worst.