October 2016 – CALIFORNIA – Just days after a cluster of more than 200 small earthquakes shook the Salton Sea area of Southern California, scientists have found evidence of a second fault line that runs parallel to the massive San Andreas Fault – one of the state’s most dangerous fault lines. The new fault appears to run right through the 56-km-long Salton Sea in the Colorado Desert, to the west of the San Andreas Fault. Now that we know it’s there, seismologists will be forced to reassess earthquake risk models for the greater Los Angeles area.
“This previously unidentified fault represents a new hazard to the region and holds significant implications for fault models … and, consequently, models of ground-motion prediction and southern San Andreas Fault rupture scenarios,” the team from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Nevada Seismological Laboratory reports. Now known as the Salton Trough Fault, the newly mapped fault has been hidden for all this time because it’s submerged beneath the Salton Sea – a vast, salty rift lake that formed as a result of all the tectonic activity in the area.
The team had to use an array of instruments, including multi-channel seismic data, ocean-bottom seismometers, and a surveying method called light detection and ranging (LiDAR), to precisely map fault inside several sediment layers both in and surrounding the lakebed. “The location of the fault in the eastern Salton Sea has made imaging it difficult, and there is no associated small seismic events, which is why the fault was not detected earlier,” says Scripps geologist Neal Driscoll.