As if forecasts for another bad hurricane season, spreading drought conditions, dozens of forest fires in the southwest and flooding in the northeast weren't bad enough, how about the Great Los Angeles Quake of 2006?
Literally bringing down the rafters, this earthquake, 7.5 or greater, would make hurricane Katrina look like a walk on the beach.
And it could happen today.
A new study reveals that while the northern and central portions of the San Andreas Fault slipped dramatically, spawning major quakes in 1906 (the Great 7.9 San Francisco Earthquake) and 1857, respectively, the southern end has been quietly building pressure for 300 years along a 100 mile stretch running south of San Bernardino to the east of Los Angeles and San Diego in California.
"It is fully charged for the next big event," geophysicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, CA, Yuri Fialko, told National Geographic.
Fialko's treatise "Interseismic Strain Accumulation and the Earthquake Potential on the Southern San Andreas Fault System" was recently published in "Nature,"a weekly science journal that's been around since 1869.
Fialko studied the fault system with radar-equipped satellites and global positioning systems (GPS) and came up with a conclusion that mirrors previous interpretations that the southern San Andreas Fault is ready to slip in a big way.
United States Geological Survey's "Putting Down Roots In Earthquake Country" says there's a 62 percent probability that a quake of magnitude 6.7 or greater will occur in the San Francisco Bay Area region by 2032, where the 1906 quake is only 100 years old.
A major quake now in the San Francisco Bay Area along the San Andreas, Hayward or other major faults would cause $150 billion in property damage (Hurricane Katrina's damage estimates, the greatest from a natural event ever in America, range from $40 to $80 billion), cause the death of 1,800 to 3,400 people, damage 90,000 buildings and displace as many as 250,000 households, according to "When the Big One Strikes Again," a report released at a three-day 100th Anniversary Earthquake Conference held in San Francisco earlier this year.
Fialko's report, published with video simulations of quake shock waves says the San Andreas Fault marks the boundary between the North American and Pacific tectonic plates, pieces of the Earth's outer crust that, over time, jostle for position, creating earthquakes, large and small.
Plates at the southern end of the San Andreas Fault have been locked for centuries, long enough to build up enough strength to generate 20 to 26 feet of slip of real estate below the fault -- the equivalent of a major earthquake. His measurements are at the high end of energy build up, compared to findings by other scientists.
One scientist likened the build up to a woman ten months pregnant. Less powerful shakers, including 1994's magnitude 6.7 Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles, may have been Mother Earth's labor pains.
The southern section of the San Andreas slices through mostly uninhabited desert, but Fialko's computer simulations show a rupture toward the north could send deadly seismic waves from San Bernardino to Los Angeles and San Diego.
nemmar.com recently published a four-part series on the danger of earthquakes in California and provided a host of tips discussing how to prepare for the worse. Links to the stories are listed below.