LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Researchers at the Scripps Institution For Oceanography warn that man’s interference with the Colorado River could set the stage for a major earthquake along the San Andres Fault.

The Colorado River used to feed the Salton Sea until levees were built 100 years ago. Researchers say that man’s interference with the flooding may have stopped the clock on a regular series of big earthquakes, potentially resulting in pressure on fault lines.

Scientists say that the added pressure may lead to a 7.5 quake or larger, once the San Andreas Fault jolts “back to life” under the Salton Sea, Scripps said in a study published Monday in the scientific journal, Nature Geoscience.

“It’s possible that the ending of the diversion re-set the earthquake clock; we’re more than 100 years overdue for a quake that could be as big as 7.5,” said Neal Driscoll, quoted by signonsandiego.com .

“The fault could send tremendous energy towards the Los Angeles area if it broke from south to north, and could cause shaking that would make soil liquefy in bays and estuaries in San Diego County,” Driscoll said.

The Scripps study suggests that the Colorado River flooding may have affected the timing of the smaller, stress-relieving faults.

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