Study: Deadliest Earthquake in SoCal History May Have Been Caused by Oil Drilling

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A home that fell victim to earth slippage in San Clemente after a massive earthquake struck on March 10, 1933. (Credit: Lt. Charles A. Pierce / U.S. Geological Survey

On a March evening in 1933, the Newport-Inglewood fault ruptured violently along the Huntington Beach coast. The quake brought down scores of buildings from Santa Ana to Compton, with Long Beach hit particularly hard.

The Long Beach quake, the deadliest in Southern California history, focused attention like never before on the seismic dangers the region faces.

But a new study suggests that the quake may have been caused by another factor: Deep drilling in an oil field in Huntington Beach.

The study, written by two leading U.S. Geological Survey scientists in Pasadena and to be published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America on Tuesday, also suggests that three other earthquakes, including magnitude 5.0 earthquakes in 1920 in Inglewood and in 1929 in Whittier, may also be linked to oil drilling.

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