Washington, November 9 (ANI): In a new research, scientists have determined that with an average of four mini-earthquakes per day, Southern California's San Jacinto fault constantly adjusts to make it a less likely candidate for a major earthquake than its quiet neighbor to the east, the Southern San Andreas fault.
"Those minor to moderate events along the San Jacinto fault relieve some of the stress built by the constantly moving tectonic plates," said Shimon Wdowinski, research associate professor at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
Previous estimates may have overstated the likelihood of a major event on the 140-mile long San Jacinto fault, which begins between Palm Springs and Los Angeles and runs south toward the Salton Sea east of San Diego.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) is forecasting a 31 percent chance that an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 or higher on the Richter Scale will occur on the San Jacinto fault in the next 30 years.
Only the San Andreas fault, with a 59 percent chance, is more likely to have a major event during the same period.
"Thirty-one percent is a high probability, when it comes to earthquake forecasting-the second highest in Southern California," said Wdowinski.
"Our data show that the next significant event for the San Jacinto fault would probably be between 6.0 and 6.7. It doesn't sound like much, but in earthquake terms it is the difference between a major earthquake and a moderate event," he added.
A magnitude 6.0 earthquake may be felt for dozens of miles from the epicenter, but building damage especially in California, due to strict building codes, would be minimal.
As the magnitude approaches and passes 7.0, which is ten times stronger than an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.0, more serious property damage and loss of life may occur.
According to Wdowinski, the San Jacinto fault is not as dangerous as predicted, because "deep creep" releases elastic strain of the moving plates approximately six to ten miles beneath the surface.
As a result, the accumulation of strain along the fault occurs in the upper six miles of crust, which may be released by more frequent, moderate earthquakes.
However a major event can still occur on the San Jacinto fault, but with lower probability, if two segments of the fault rupture simultaneously. (ANI)