Californians know it's coming: waves of shaking across the Southland when the San Andreas fault inevitably lets loose the “Big One.”
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The scenario developed in recent years for planning purposes assumes a magnitude as large as 7.8. But what if it might be even bigger? Maybe ten times bigger than previously thought possible?
"I think we do need to rethink how large an event it could be," said Victor Tsai, PhD, a geophysicist at the California Institute of Technology.
Tsai is a member of the research team that came to that eye-opening conclusion after studying a recent large quake that occurred half a world away, off the western coast of Sumatra.
The April 11th quake was larger than previously thought possible – magnitude 8.6 from a type of fault system that's not supposed to produce quakes that large.
Significantly for Southern California, it is the same type of fault mechanism as the San Andreas.
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