New research helps ready California for “The Big One”

Mar 31, 2011

The San Andreas Fault starts at the Gulf of California in Mexico and winds its way through 810 miles of cities, towns and wilderness to end at the Mendocino coast. It’s the place where two tectonic plates, the Pacific and the North American, have been rubbing against each other for millennia, causing massive temblors like the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and the 1989 Loma Prieta quake. Scientists have been studying the fault for years, trying to predict when the next big one is coming and how bad the damage will be when it does, but the picture has been incomplete before now. A group of geophysicists from the United States Geological Survey are undertaking the very ambitious Seismic Imaging Project. Their goal is to create an actual image of the earth’s crust beneath our state that will provide an accurate picture of how an earthquake’s energy will affect different areas of California. The information can then be used to create better building codes and disaster preparedness plans. We’ll find out how the data will be collected and why it involves setting off explosives in the dead of night.

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