People in earthquake-prone California often talk about the "Big One," a devastating quake that many experts say will surely strike the region sometime in the future.
A research team is now working to predict when the big one - and even little ones - might occur. Termed SAFOD (San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth), the project involves more than 20 researchers from several major universities, labs and government agencies, including the husband-wife team of Fred and Judi Chester of Texas A&M’s College of Geosciences. SAFOD’s goal is a lofty one - to drill directly into the San Andreas Fault about two miles deep, place various types of instruments in the bored-out area, get rock samples and use the new data to extend and test models that may allow researchers to predict when the next major earthquake might hit.
It’s the first time anyone has ever drilled directly into an active fault zone where scientists think an earthquake will occur in the next couple of years. The multi-year project is part of EarthScope, a long-range program to study the tectonics of North America in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, and is backed with $220 million in funding from the National Science Foundation. The core samples taken will be housed and studied in the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) core repository at Texas A&M, which has some of the world’s best expertise and resources in core handling.
Keith Randall | EurekAlert!
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