Local News

Mar 14, 2011 10:16 PM by Ariel Wesler

Could a 9.0 quake rattle the Central Coast?

Of course living in California, many of us can't help but wonder could an earthquake like the one in Japan happen here?

"There are dozens are earthquakes per day in California," said UCSB Research Seismologist Jamison Steidl.

He's part of the Earth Research Institute at UC Santa Barbara.

"There really isn't any evidence yet that earthquakes trigger other earthquakes at distances of thousands of kilometers," Steidl said.

The faults in our region are strike-slip faults compared to Japan's subduction faults, where the plates move beneath each other.

"Because we have a vertical fault, not a dipping fault, like they have in Japan, the amount of area is much smaller," Steidl said.

He says the size of the quake depends how much of the fault can slip at once.

Steidl: "There isn't a fault here on the South or Central Coast that's capable of producing that large of an earthquake.

Reporter: What's the largest we could see here?

Steidl: "Probably high 7s or low 8s."

But don't let that fool you. Steidl says we could still have significant damage. The initial quake just wouldn't be as widespread. As for the "big one," Steidl says scientists aren't able to make an exact prediction.

"You could expect in San Luis Obispo, here in Santa Barbara, magnitude six and a half to seven tomorrow, next week, next year," Steidl said. "We should all be prepared for that."

Several scientists are pushing for an early detection system for earthquakes on the West Coast. They it saved lives in Japan.

Steidl says unlike offshore faults near Japan though, most faults on the Central and South coasts are on land and beneath cities, leaving little warning time.

If you'd like to do a little more research on earthquakes yourself, just click here.

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