Two sections of the fault system had previously been identified as separate faults - the Newport-Inglewood fault and the Rose Canyon fault.
This study looked the Rose Canyon fault and the Newport-Inglewood fault and concluded that they are not separate fault systems, but they actually are an only and continuous fault that runs from San Diego Bay to Los Angeles.
The work revealed that four segments of the strike-slip fault are broken up by "stepovers" - or, points where the fault is horizontally offset.
With this approach, the researchers were able to define the fault architecture in more detail than ever, allowing them to estimate the magnitudes with greater accuracy. The researchers found that the maximum potential for a rupture of the entire fault can produce between magnitude 6.7 and magnitude 7.3 to 7.4 earthquakes.
"This system is mostly offshore but never more than four miles from the San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles County coast", said Valerie Sahakian, who lead the study during her doctorate at Scripps.
Southern California is capable of a magnitude 7.3 natural disaster, a new analysis of the region's coast fault systems revealed.
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While the likelihood of a full rupture sits at 30-40%, lead author Valerie Sahakian, who is now a postdoctoral fellow at the USGS in Menlo Park, says that a smaller natural disaster in the magnitude 5 or 6 range could still have a significant impact on the region.
A study released this month by the US Geological Survey examines 11 previous earthquakes that have occurred near Frazier Mountain in the Los Padres National Forest.
According to the study, if the offshore sections split, a magnitude-7.3 quake could be produced and up to magnitude-7.4 if the onshore segments fissure.
The study used data from older seismic surveys as well as high-resolution offshore bathymetric (underwater topography) data collected by Scripps researchers between 2006 and 2009. The new research shows that M=7.3+ earthquakes are possible along this fault zone.
The fault system hosted a 6.4-magnitude quake near Long Beach, California in 1933. Southern California Edison funded the research at the direction of the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission. We're talking about a really big quake along the southern end of the San Andreas Fault that measures magnitude 7.5 or greater.
The research found earthquakes happen there on average every 100 years, the Los Angeles Times reported. It concluded that further study was needed to better understand the hazard potential in the area.