Easter Quake Study Reveals Surprising New Findings

New images suggest it put us at higher risk for a major earthquake

By Mari Payton
|  Sunday, Dec 19, 2010  |  Updated 11:37 AM PDT
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Trigger Quake Caused Some Damage

NASA JPL/USGS/California Geological Survey/Google

This UAVSAR image, covering the time period from October 21, 2009 to April 13, 2010, shows ground deformation that is largely a result of the April 4, 2010 earthquake in Baja California. Black lines indicate interpreted faults, and red lines show where surface rupture was confirmed by geologists in the field.

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When a 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked San Diego last Easter, we thought the most significant impact was above ground. Now we’re learning that the quake may have increased the potential for larger earthquakes in Southern California.

High tech images released by NASA's jet propulsion lab suggest that the quake put enough stress on fault lines in our region to put us at higher risk for a major earthquake.

The Easter quake ruptured six faults in two directions, but especially increased stress on the Elsinore, which runs from San Diego County through San Bernardino and Los Angeles Counties.

Scientists believe the Elsinore is capable of a 7 or 7.5 magnitude earthquake. Still, seismologists say there's no way to tell which fault could produce the next "big one.”

"I think it's going be like adding a few straws to the back of the camel, but we have no idea what the load is already and we don't know what the camel can stand. In my view, it's just another reminder that we need to be prepared all the time," said Cal Tech Seismologist Kate Hutton.

The Easter quake could be the trigger for any one of the faults, including the San Andreas.

Scientists say the Baja quake proved to be one of the most complex quakes along the Pacific and North American plates.

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