Major Southern California Fault Line Eyed After Unprecedented Movement

A major southern California fault capable of producing a magnitude 8 temblor started to move for the first time in 500 years following a series of earthquakes in the Mojave Desert over the summer, according to a new study published Thursday in the journal Science.

The study by geophysicists from the California Institute of Technology and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory found that the Garlock Fault – which runs east to west for 185 miles from the San Andreas Fault to Death Valley – has slipped .8 inches since July. This is the first movement documented on the fault in the modern historical record.

“This is surprising, because we’ve never seen the Garlock fault do anything. Here, all of a sudden, it changed its behavior,” Zachary Ross, assistant professor of geophysics at Caltech and lead author of the paper, told the Los Angeles Time.  “We don’t know what it means.”

Satellite images show the process called fault creep began after Southern California experienced its largest earthquake sequence in two decades beginning on July 4. A magnitude 6.4 foreshock rocked the Mojave Desert about 120 miles north of Los Angeles before a magnitude 7.1 mainshock hit the next day in addition to more than 100,000 aftershocks. …

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