Beneath the beauty of the Palos Verdes Peninsula lies a newly discovered danger: a fault zone capable of producing an earthquake 45 times stronger than the devastating 1994 Northridge quake.

To be clear, scientists already knew of the existence of the Palos Verdes fault zone, which stretches almost 70 miles from Santa Monica Bay to Dana Point, but new information tells them the fault could produce a temblor reaching a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter Scale.

To make matters worse, the mostly underwater fault also goes directly under the peninsula and some highly populated areas.

“It would be frightening because the fault runs through the Long Beach and Los Angeles harbors, it would cause major damage in those two harbors. The fault runs beneath oil refineries that could cause fires and other damage … If this earthquake were to happen, it could be almost worse than a magnitude 7.8 on the San Andreas fault,” said CalTech seismologist Egill Hauksson.

Hauksson said that a strong quake has the potential to kill thousands of people and destroy neighborhoods and businesses, among other impacts.

“It also runs close to LAX, so traffic to LAX would stop. There would be extensive damage to buildings in Los Angeles,” he said.

The study done by scientists at Harvard University is the most detailed information yet about the fault zone and should remind those of us who live in Southern California to be prepared for the Big One.

But Hauksson says the danger is not imminent.

“Earthquakes like this are very rare. They happen maybe every 5,000 to 10,000 years, so don’t lose any sleep over it,” he said.