After five earthquakes along the San Andreas fault, this dry riverbed has been offset 10 meters. The lower image shows the location of the fault (white line) and the location of the dry riverbed (blue).
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of L. Grant Ludwig
New Earthquake Information Unearthed by San Andreas Fault Studies
News story originally written on January 21, 2010
Scientists have taken a new look at the San Andreas Fault in Southern California. What they learned might change our understanding of faults and earthquakes.
To better understand the fault, the scientists took measurements of the Earth's surface. They used a tool that gave them very detailed pictures of the fault. They used the pictures to look at stream channels that cut across the fault. As the fault moves over time, these channels are split apart so that the downstream part no longer matches up with the upstream part. With their new measurements and the detailed pictures, the scientists were able to figure out when earthquakes split the channels apart in the past.
They found that not all earthquakes are the same. The fault acted differently during different earthquakes. If faults slipped the same way each time, then scientists would have a better chance of predicting earthquakes. But if faults slipped differently each time, predicting earthquakes would be difficult.
Strain has been building up on the San Andreas Fault in Southern California for a long time. Someday, the strain will be released in an earthquake. Earthquakes can happen without warning. So, if you live in an area like Southern California where earthquakes are likely, it’s important to be prepared.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes fun classroom activities
for you and your students. Issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
are also full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science!
You might also be interested in:
The ground underfoot might seem like it's not going anywhere but it is. It moves. If it moves all of a sudden the ground shakes. That's an earthquake! Earthquakes happen as pieces of the Earth's crust...more
Scientists have learned that Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, has erupted in the past due to the mixing of two different types of magma. Adam Kent, a geologist at Oregon State University, says this...more
The Earth's mantle is a rocky, solid shell that is between the Earth's crust and the outer core. The mantle is made up of many different reservoirs that have different chemical compositions. Scientists...more
Some faults look strong and like they wouldn’t cause an earthquake. But it turns out that they can slip and slide like weak faults causing earthquakes. Scientists have been looking at one of these faults...more
The sun goes through cycles that last approximately 11 years. These solar cycle include phases with more magnetic activity, sunspots, and solar flares. They also include phases with less activity. The...more
Studying tree rings doesn't only tell us the age of that tree. Tree rings also show what climate was like while the tree was alive. This means that tree rings can tell us about climates of the past. Two...more
Earth's first life form may have developed between the layers of a chunk of mica sitting like a multilayered sandwich in primordial waters, according to a new hypothesis. The mica hypothesis, which was...more