Increasingly significant earthquakes are jolting the North American West Coast. The entire length of the San Andreas complex which runs nearly the whole length of Mexico all the way to the Juan de Fuca plate that is being squeezed under Vancouver, is jerking increasingly violently. The section in the middle of California that hasn’t seen a major quake in well over 100 years is the only section seeing no quakes, not even microquakes. This is the section that will blow out suddenly, with tremendous violence in the reasonably near future. Meaning, not 100 years from now. Each year, the likelihood of it happening is greater and greater.

IRIS Seismic Monitor



Click here for the regular Californian earth quake reports:  Recent Earthquakes for 118-34


2-degree map

The 5.0 quake was very shallow, around the 10 km depth.  The place where it happened is significant.  For this is where the southern end of the quiet part of the San Andreas is.  The region where this quake happened is very geologically complex.  We can see this via satellite:


San Andreas Fault Map – Zoom In on the Fault! – GEOLOGY.COM


This is truly a nifty site and I recommend visiting it.  You can see any level of satellite detail, the entire length of the San Andreas fault system.  I spent over an hour, playing  with this site’s maps.  It was amazing!  For a great deal of this deadly fault’s length, there are roads!  They follow the path of the San Andreas perfectly!  This sort of irresponsible planning and roadwork isn’t the only stupid business on the San Andreas.  A number of houses are built right on top of the San Andreas.


This is near where the Loma Linda earthquake killed so many people in the past.  Note how the land scape seems to flow to a low point here.  When slip/strike zones have a stress release moment, we get both subsidence and uplift.  The mountains to the West of Los Angeles moves upwards and the LA basin falls lower.  Like the Tokyo basin, LA has many oddities in the crust.  Evidently, part of the lithosphere has been knocked sideways.  This, too, gets squeezed by pressure from distant parts of the planet.  In the case of Tokyo, the North American plate’s movement to the west.  In LA’s case, the pressure from Australia, shoving the Pacific plate northwards as well as the North American plate moving westwards.


Looking at photos of the San Andreas, it is horrifying to see modern suburban houses built right smack dab on top of the fault.  This is inexcusable.  Since the Great San Francisco Quake, geologists have mapped this entire fault line.  Yet, housing, even very new housing, is built right on top of it.  In the LA area next to yesterday’s earthquake, I found this particularly grim but amusing example of utter stupidity:


My god!  That huge, sprawling mansion with the big pool was configured to be as much as possible, right smack dab on top of the fault!  This is a very new house.  I hope the poor owner takes a look at this picture and begins to

  1. Sue the bastards who sold the property to him or her.
  2. Sue the architect for not doing a proper geological survey of the site.
  3. Run like hell from this death trap.


And of course, scream at local and state authorities for allowing this plot of land to be developed.  Of course, any sane land use regulations in this state should include total prohibitions on siting any structures on any of the major faults.  Since this was ignored in the Victorian era is no excuse for continuing to ignore it.  We know that the above mansion will, one fine day, be totally destroyed.  Indeed, it happens to sit right on top of the point where the Great Break will begin.  The chances of everyone in that house being instantly killed with no warning is very high.  


This is not a conjecture, this is an absolute.  The only way this future event can be avoided, is for this house to burn down in some Santa Ana windstorm event.  What a great choice.  There are literally over thousands of houses built right on top of this menacing monster.  And less than 300 yards away are even more houses since the fault skirts many communities.  The refusal of the government of California to prevent overdevelopment on obvious danger zones is why I don’t feel tremendous sympathy for that state.  Just like all the governments in the Gulf of Mexico encourage massive real estate developments in areas that regularly are wiped out by hurricanes, if fools build permanent, expensive structures in geological or climate destruction zones, they should expect doom to come knocking on the front door.






Filed under Geology


  1. Melponeme_k

    I’ve been a long reader/lurker and this is my first comment. I find all of your posts fascinating and they shed a lot of well needed light on the economic collapse.

    It is terrifying that houses were built right on top of a danger zone where there should be no development at all. I doubt any of those homeowners are aware of the location of the fault line, and probably think it is nowhere near their homes.

    But it isn’t only California and the Western states playing dice with nature. The entire eastern seaboard is in danger of massive tidal waves from the collapsing Cumbre Viejo volcano. We are even in a major Hurricane zone. I think it is in our natures to close our eyes to obvious danger rather than face it head on.

  2. MikeM

    The south 1/3 section of the SA fault has not ruptured for over 300 years, which is obviously of great concern:

    The middle third of the SA has not ruptured since the Ft Teton quake of 1857, which is now beyond the historical average of a large rupture of ~140 yrs. The consequences of the lower two thirds of the San Andreas rupturing in one event would be significant.

    The 1857 Ft Teton quake was preceded by a quake (quite regular occurrences) at Parkfield by some several hours.

    My concern is that the Imperial Valley is regularly rocked by a significant quake on average of 30-40 years, which could possibly let the lower 1/3 of the SA fault loose, triggering the middle 1/3 to slip as well. The last significant event in the Imperial valley was Oct 15, 1979. It is due, and is in very close proximity to the south section of the SA fault zone.

    For areas such as the LA basin, the direction of ‘unzipping’ of the fault is quite important. I am not a geologist or seismologist, however I suspect that if the fault fractured from SE to NW, a larger portion of the waveform energy would be directed towards the LA basin (which incidentally is a recent sedimentary deposit, or from a seismologic perspective, a large bowl of jello.)

    I recall reading local articles of the Scripps study when it was originally released, and would further note that it stressed that the San Jacinto Fault (roughly from San Berdoo to the Imperial Valley) is far more active that originally thought, and is also just about due for a significant event.

    How exactly does the world work? It’s bewildering to ponder events that will unquestionably occur, but are of low probability.

    Am I concerned about SoCal getting a rude awakening? You bet. But never so much as when the Santa Ana’s blow. ‘Biblical proportions’ come to mind when I think about those possibilities; I can only be hopeful in that the odds are so small.

    On a side note, approximately 1/4 of the plate interaction between the North American and Pacific plates occurs via slippage through the Owens Valley of California (ECSZ). It has been speculated that the San Andreas may eventually shift (once again) farther east along this very zone.

    While remarkable that the northern end of this slip-strike fault has escaped exact location, near its known northern section lies yet another supervolcano, the Long Valley Caldera, which last erupted ~740k ybp, and deposited ash over a large swath of the present USA. A trip up US395 is indeed a venture through a geologic wonderland, if one is even mildly aware of what he’s looking at!

    Mammoth Mountain, and the Inyo and Mono Craters are geologically so brand new it’s like they’re still on the showroom floor!

  3. nah

    i have learned much master

  4. WNC Observer

    Another question is why insurance companies write policies on these properties? If there were no insurance available, these houses would have never been built, for no lender would issue a mortgage on uninsured houses.

    Of course, the same thing could be asked about coastal properties wrt hurricane risks.

    The thing is, the rest of us pay for it in terms of higher insurance premiums. When “the big one” finally hits, or when a combination of rising sea levels and some Cat 5s do in some coastal city, then we’ll REALLY see higher insurance premiums – if any insurers even survive, that is.

  5. Fri Jan 9
    “Quakes shake loose fears about Yellowstone volcano”
    “In the ancient past, the volcano has erupted 1,000 times more powerfully than the 1980 blast at Mount St. Helens, hurling ash as far away as Louisiana. No eruption that big has occurred while humans have walked the earth, however, and geologists say even a minor lava flow is extremely unlikely any time soon.”
    “Some observers are nonetheless warning of imminent catastrophe.”…

  6. Bear of Little Brain

    For Doomwatchers:
    7-day earthquake animations available here
    I have a morbid fascination with that bit between Alaska and California, which rarely has any activity at all, and then it’s very weak (not that I check it that often unless something big happens somewhere).
    Seem to remember that Istanbul is in the firing line, too.
    Aren’t we a bundle of fun! 🙂

  7. “Aren’t we a bundle of fun!”


  8. Bear of Little Brain

    So I stumbled off to find a suitable tune…
    Peggy Lee, “If That’s All There Is”…
    But I couldn’t find a good vid. So I broke out the booze… and found a version by Cristina, which isn’t quite so downbeat, and has more edge…
    or, with no vid but better audio:
    So I watched the video and said to myself, “Is that all there is to ‘Is That All There Is?’?” Heh.
    Hope they work outside Teletubbie land. What a week. I need a drink.

  9. Dutch

    @ WNC Observer

    Actually the Insurance Companies get the government to declare it a disaster zone then get the Feds to pay for it. Just ask any resident from New Orleans.

  10. shirt

    California is not as bad off as you might think. Building codes have improved over the years and western frame housing, when reasonably up to code, will survive even a hard quake. My 1916 redwood frame house (craftsman style) survive the Loma Prieta quake quite well, 13 miles from the epicenter, although much of the original paster in the living room did not. After the Kobe quake much attention was drawn to some westermn style home which suffered not at all.

    See //

    I must concur with your viewpoint of those whe build on fault lines but, having bought and sold 3 homes in california, I know the buyer is informed, you do get good geology reports and seismic hazard and all that. At the time of purchase I do not think most buyers think.

    The greatest danger in southern california is not the housing damage but the loss of the one imported resource this area can’t do without: water. Another Fort Tejon earthquake can cut off water from central California and the Owens valley.

  11. Skyline Blvd. Daly City. Andreas runs down the middle of it and into the ocean.

    Very dramatic. Would love to see where the fault runs off the street and into the water.

  12. emsnews

    There is no excuse to allow houses to be built on the San Andreas fault since 1910.

  13. Grok1

    The geologist who predicted the San Francisco earthquake of 1989 says another California quake is on the way—and SOON.
    The Ventura County Star quotes Jim Berkland as saying, “The first seismic window of the year is only a little less potent than last month’s, which had the strongest tidal forces since 1993.”

    The Star quotes meteorologist Kevin Martin as saying, “I’ve noticed that weather patterns affect our fault lines. In fact, during the Northridge Quake of 1994 a large ridge of high pressure was parked in the exact same spot one will be during our next Santa Ana Wind event. The window for that is January 9th to the 14th. This is exactly in Geologist Jim Berkland’s window. So any bets on the table for a larger quake would be during that window.

    “I’m not saying to my viewers to run because a Northridge style quake is coming, but I must say the pattern is nearly identical to it, and if weather patterns are any indication of a quake delivery then always be prepared. In light of Mr. Berkland’s window falling in this weather pattern, I have taken the measure to prepare in case a quake hits. You always have to be prepared.”

    Since by the time you’ve read this, there will only be a few days left in that “window,” we can only hope that we’re all still here.

  14. emsnews

    The moon can affect things, it certainly causes the ocean to change its shape and heft.

  15. The moon is Very important. It keeps the world on a stable orbit.Without the moon the world would tumble over and over and seasons would change very quickly as would the poles.Bad news is the moon is moving away from the earth and one day will leave the earth behind. Don`t worry it only moves away at about one inch a year.

  16. Something else thats overdue.

    “The magnetic poles are showing strong signs of switching. About every half a million years, the magnetic poles would switched position. It seems that we are overdue since the last switch is about half a million years ago. The past century, the magnetic strength had dropped by 5%.”…

  17. emsnews

    Yes, Tell. And we will have obvious side effects with electronics.

  18. Elaine
    “The moon can affect things, it certainly causes the ocean to change its shape and heft.”
    As you said.
    “Why does Io have so many volcanoes?
    In addition to the pull of Jupiter’s gravity, Io also feels the strain from the gravitational fields of Jupiter’s other large moons.”
    These multiple fields wrench Io’s surface so fiercely that the whole globe can distort, stretching by up to 100km. Friction from this upheaval is responsible for much of Io’s internal heat.
    This creates molten lava underground, which then erupts violently through the surface…

  19. MikeM

    Here in San Diego, we’re told that we have little to worry about, as far as damage from ground shaking goes, insofar of major events on regional fault systems.

    But take a look at this. This was a 4.0 on the Richter scale, barely called moderate, and exactly on the SAF system; the responses are from people who experienced the ground shaking, which is measured on the Mercalli Intensity Scale (a gauge of local damage).

    I am always fascinated with the ‘did you feel it?’ response mapping that USGS provides after such quakes. It demonstrates splendidly how any quake, large or small, could literally be a roll of the dice.

    Politics will always prevail over common sense, except for the brief instances after a disaster.

    Keep in mind that an 8.0 on the Richter scale would release 10k as much energy as the above depicted graphic, but the the degree of local damage is simply a roll of the dice, as there are many complex variables.

  20. “Can drilling trigger a mud volcano?”…
    “On May 29, 2006, the island of Java, the most populated island in the World, experienced a mud volcano that has since displaced an estimated 40,000 residents”

  21. “Yellowstone Supervolcano Eruption Close ?”…

  22. emsnews

    Tell, I wrote in the past, about the Indonesian mud volcano. What a mess! Yes, drilling can have very astonishing effects. And tapping into super-hot geothermal spots can be very dangerous, too. The biggest one in America sits right next to the San Andreas fault and the earth constantly shakes quite significantly as the water is pumped into the wells after the steam is drained out of the wells. Not a good thing, I may add. I was against it back when it was built.

  23. Jimbo

    My house is built on a minor fault that is part of the SAF system. It is a fact of life when you live at a plate boundary. Even if the minor fault under our house moves, our house is unlikely to fall down, although the foundation correction bill may be a bit of a bummer. The deductible is quite high.

  24. Linda

    Just an interesting caveat to your article… That ‘mansion’ in San Bernadino on 1515 Bonita Vista Dr. with that pool that was built along the fault was purchased back in 1994 for $467k and they tried selling it this last year for a whooping $1.5mil.\!!!!?! After 150 days on the market it was cancelled as any NHD report will show it sits directly on the fault line itself. The fact anything could sell for $1.5mil in San Bernadino is astonishing but there ya go… a valiant effort put forth by the seller and agent I’m sure. I shutter to think about living in San Bernadino, period, but listing a home like that and the insurance associated with it…no thanks!

  25. Linda

    Excuse the above typo! It was listed for $1.150mil… still about $500k too much…

  26. Jim R

    Wow, thanks for that info, Linda.
    Maybe they should just put the house up on tracks or something. With extra-large shock absorbers. For $1.15MM, that’s the least that I would expect.

  27. While loan plans differ from company to company, all mortgage companies having have specified
    basic files in their personal loan package.
    One common size economical statement dispenses with
    the exact levels of assets and liabilities? There
    is a specific way to go in relation to finding a person’s mortgage deal and here is how we should do that

  28. Beverly Howard

    I can’t tell from the fault map is this address is on an earthquake fault or not, 116 Alta Mesa Dr., Vista, CA. Do you know?

  29. Jim R

    Beverly, looking at your house in street view, I don’t see any abrupt landscape changes that would indicate that it is directly on top of a fault. I see that the SA Fault is about 50 miles away from there. Really nice house in a lovely neighborhood.
    California has many faults, though …
    It looks like a relatively low-activity patch of southern Cal, though.

    But, the scientists are saying the SA Fault has between 30 and 50 feet of crustal plate movement stored up. And that’s a lot. It will at least rattle your teapot collection when it happens 50 miles away.

  30. Beverly Howard

    Thank you for the information.

  31. Jim R

    Some disclaimers are in order, though:
    1. I am not a seismologist, but simply an amateur looking for truth, like Elaine;
    2. All of California is earthquake country;
    3. A magnitude 8 earthquake on the SA Fault will cause a world of hurt in Los Angeles and all up and down the fault line (most of the state);
    4. When I said it would rattle your teapots, that was a minimum. Could be much more.

    So, good luck riding your little ‘stable’ patch of crustal plate there in Vista, CA 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s