The Magnitude 6.7 Northridge, California, Earthquake of 17 January 1994

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Science  21 Oct 1994:
Vol. 266, Issue 5184, pp. 389-397
DOI: 10.1126/science.266.5184.389


The most costly American earthquake since 1906 struck Los Angeles on 17 January 1994. The magnitude 6.7 Northridge earthquake resulted from more than 3 meters of reverse slip on a 15-kilometer-long south-dipping thrust fault that raised the Santa Susana mountains by as much as 70 centimeters. The fault appears to be truncated by the fault that broke in the 1971 San Fernando earthquake at a depth of 8 kilometers. Of these two events, the Northridge earthquake caused many times more damage, primarily because its causative fault is directly under the city. Many types of structures were damaged, but the fracture of welds in steel-frame buildings was the greatest surprise. The Northridge earthquake emphasizes the hazard posed to Los Angeles by concealed thrust faults and the potential for strong ground shaking in moderate earthquakes.

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