Experts for years have questioned why the San Andreas fault hasn’t generated a major earthquake in recent history. A new study from scientists at San Diego State University and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego may have provided insight into the mystery.
The study, published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature, found that the lack of activity along the fault could be due to the shrinking Salton Sea, located about 150 miles southeast of L.A.
Researchers found that the lack of water being funneled into the body of water could be one of the reasons behind the delay of the “big” earthquake experts are expecting to hit the Southern California region.
However, experts warn that while the drying of the Salton Sea may delay the “Big One,” it won’t stop it. The delay could result in a more powerful earthquake when it does strike, the study warned.
The tip of the fault, located closer to the Mexican border, hasn’t had an earthquake with a magnitude of 7 or greater in about 300 years, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Experts have noted that the lack of activity in that portion of the fault is unusual. Still, the entire fault has not been inactive.
A portion of the fault between Monterey County and San Bernardino County ruptured 166 years ago, and another portion ruptured in the great San Francisco earthquake 117 years ago, the Times reported.
Researchers expect that when the “Big One” does hit, significant damage can be done to the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that upwards of 1,800 deaths and more than $200 billion in damages could occur when the earthquake hits.
Experiencing earthquakes isn’t anything new to the Golden State, with hundreds of earthquakes per year being registered across the state.
California generally sees two or three large earthquakes every year that are strong enough to cause moderate damage, according to the California Department of Conservation.
Experts encourage residents to prepare for the “Big One” or any earthquake that could hit California.
More information on how to prepare for an earthquake can be found here.