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The San Andreas’ Failure “drought Of Earthquake” May Be Due To A Lost Old Lake

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The “earthquake drought” currently taking place along a notorious section of the San Andreas Fault may be down to the loss of an ancient lake that once existed in the region, scientists have said.

Researchers led by Ph.D. student Ryley Hill, from the University of California San Diego, have put forward a new idea for why there has been no major rupture along the fault for over 300 years, when historical records suggest earthquakes of magnitude 7 or above normally take place once every 150 years on average.

The southern San Andreas Fault is capable of producing earthquakes of magnitude 7 and above, potentially placing those living in the region at risk. The lack of a large earthquake has left scientists wondering when the next “big one” may hit.

In a presentation at the Geological Society of America’s 2020 Annual Meeting, Hill and colleagues suggested an ancient lake that once sat above this southern section may have been involved in ruptures. They say the weight of the water in Lake Cahuilla, which has been drying out for almost 1,000 years, may have placed additional strain on the fault, increasing the frequency of large earthquakes—albeit to a very small degree.

The lack of a lake above the fault may explain why it has been such a long time since a large earthquake hit this section, the researchers say.

Stock image showing the Salton Sea with mountains in the background. Researchers say a lost lake may be behind the “earthquake drought” along one section of the San Andreas Fault.
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