Past and Future Earthquakes on the San Andreas Fault

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Science  13 May 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5724, pp. 966-967
DOI: 10.1126/science.1111707

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The San Andreas fault in Calfornia is one of the best studied earthquake-generating faults in the world. In their Perspective, Weldon et al. discuss recent efforts to construct "rupture scenarios," that is, possible histories of the date, location, and length of fault rupture of past earthquakes on the fault. Existing knowledge of the locations and dates of past earthquakes can be explained by different scenarios, but the authors argue that the evidence favors the hypothesis that the fault breaks in relatively infrequent, large earthquakes. They caution that the current 148-year hiatus since the last big earthquake is likely to end within the next ~50 years with a large rupture or sequence of ruptures spanning a substantial part of the fault.