Is the ‘Big One’ coming? Here’s what California quake experts say

A series of Mojave Desert quakes, including two sizable temblors, has California residents casting a wary eye on the famed San Andreas Fault, the Los Angeles Times says.

But seismologists say the back-to-back quakes near Ridgecrest, California, took place on two entirely different fault lines, making them unlikely to trigger a catastrophic “Big One” along the San Andreas, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

“We’re not anticipating these events will cause a big earthquake on the San Andreas Fault,” said Paul Caruso, a U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist, PBS reported.

The southern end of the San Andreas Fault, actually an 800-mile fault zone that cuts through most of California, remains long overdue for a destructive major quake, however, USA Today reported.

“We’re playing Russian roulette with Mother Nature,” said physicist Michio Kaku, CBS News reported.

“You realize the last big earthquake to hit the L.A. segment of the San Andreas fault was 1680,” Kaku said, according to the network. “That’s over 300 years ago. But the cycle time for breaks and earthquakes on the San Andreas fault is 130 years, so we are way overdue.”

A 6.4-magnitude quake hit near Ridgecrest at 10:33 a.m. Thursday, followed by a 7.1-magnitude quake in the same region at 8:19 p.m. Friday, the USGS reported.

The second quake caused fires, power outages and some damage in the Searles Valley area around Ridgecrest, near the Mojave Desert.

Seismologists say another major quake may strike in the region, which has been rattled by more than 100 aftershocks, in the next few days, CBS News reported.

But all the recent activity is taking place on two separate fault lines with no apparent connection to the San Andreas fault, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

In fact, seismologists aren’t even sure which faults are involved, according to the publication. They may be newly discovered ones.

In any case, the faults are at least 100 miles northeast of the San Andreas Fault, which gave its name to a 2015 disaster film starring Dwayne Johnson, PBS reported..

But that also means the quakes did not relieve stress on the southern portion of the San Andreas Fault, which runs through Los Angeles and San Francisco, according to the network.

“In 30 years’ time the probability of the ‘big one’ is about 100%,” Kaku said, CBS News reported. “So we will see the big one. It’s inevitable. It’s going to happen. It’s the law of physics.”

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.