Researchers Discover Fault Line Along Edge Of Salton Sea, Parallel To San Andreas Fault

LOS ANGELES ( — Researchers say they’ve discovered a fault line along the northeastern edge of the Salton Sea that runs parallel to the San Andreas Fault.

The fault line’s close proximity to the San Andreas Fault could impact earthquake risk models for the Los Angeles area, according to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

“The newly mapped Salton Trough Fault, which runs parallel to the San Andreas Fault, could impact current seismic hazard models in the earthquake-prone region that includes the greater Los Angeles area,” researchers said in a statement. “Mapping of earthquake faults provides important information for earthquake rupture and ground-shaking models, which helps protect lives and reduce property loss from these natural hazards.

The discovery comes just a week after a swarm of 200 earthquakes were detected in the Salton Sea area, triggering a rare warning of a larger earthquake striking. That period of elevated risk expired Tuesday, seismologists said.

The newly identified Salton trough fault is marked in red (dashed where inferred and solid where direct evidence exists). (Credit: Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America)

The Salton Sea fault line long eluded discovery by scientists since it’s partially submerged beneath the sea.

The team uncovered it with a variety of tools including “ocean-bottom seismometers and light detection and ranging, or lidar, to precisely map the deformation within the various sediment layers in and around the sea’s bottom,” researchers said.

The region is — as all Angelenos know — earthquake-prone. A magnitude-7 earthquake has struck the area roughly every 175 to 200 years for the last 1,000 years. A major rupture on the southern portion of the San Andreas Fault has not occurred in the last 300 years.

Researchers now hope to identify how the newly identified fault line interacts with the southern San Andreas Fault.

“We need further studies to better determine the location and character of this fault, as well as the hazard posed by this structure,” said Valerie Sahakian, the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Earthquake Science Center. “The patterns of deformation beneath the sea suggest that the newly identified fault has been long-lived and it is important to understand its relationship to the other fault systems in this geologically complicated region.”



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