Medium to large earthquakes occurring along the central San Andreas Fault appear to cluster at regular three-year intervals - a previously unnoticed cycle that provides some hope for forecasting larger quakes along this and other California faults.
The San Andreas Fault as it stretches across California
A study by University of California, Berkeley, seismologists shows a higher probability of moderate to large quakes - magnitude 4, 5 and 6 - just as the frequency of smaller quakes, called microquakes, begins to increase along the northern half of a 110-mile segment of the central San Andreas Fault. The scientists found that the frequency of these repeating microquakes along the fault segment rises and falls over a three-year period, and that moderate to large earthquakes are six to seven times more likely to occur at the upswing of this cycle.
"Larger earthquakes along the northern portion of the central San Andreas occur preferentially when the pulse starts up," said Robert Nadeau, an assistant research geophysicist at the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory. "Quakes greater than magnitude 3.5 tend to happen within one year of the pulses initiation or start.
Robert Sanders | UC Berkeley
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