THE BIG ONE: The Mega Earthquake Scientists Predict for California

San Andrés California fault

San Andreas Fault, California

"Big One", that's the name that is used informally between the conversations of the population of California, Oregon and Washington. Also from the province of the Canadian province of British Columba. With Big One they mean the earthquake that expected to occur in the Cascadia subduction zone. It is a submarine fault of 1100km in length. In parallel, and this time in California, there is also the great San Andrés fault of 1300km. This runs through the State of California in the United States and Baja California in Mexico.

Scientists anticipate and hope that any day could happen. Some newspapers in recent years it is true have been plagued with news about the impending earthquake. The truth is that it is not possible to determine exactly when it can happen, but the consensus that it will happen is almost absolute. It is hoped that you can come from either place. The consequences would be catastrophic.

How big would the "Big One" MegaEarthquake be?

tsunami great ocean wave

Expected a magnitude equal to or greater than 8 on the Richter scale. To understand the magnitude of the earthquake, we can pull a little newspaper library, and observe the earthquakes that have occurred at those very high magnitudes. We have to several examples, one of them the one that hit Japan in 2011. The subduction of the Pacific Plate under the Okhotsk Plate caused a 9,2 scale tsunami at the Richter, with a tsunami that reached the coast. It lasted 6 minutes, had a depth of 29km, a fault rupture 500km long and 200km wide, and a vertical displacement of 20 meters. Later it was followed by an aftershock in Japan of magnitude 8,1.

Taking into account the dimensions of the San Andrés fault or the Cascadia subduction zone, it is easy to intuit that the dimensions that a mega earthquake such as the one described by scientists would have are not far-fetched. According to the calculations made, the zone of Cascadia, would produce a 12-hour tsunami that would come and go. It would lift a mass 2 times greater than that moved in the 2010 Chilean tsunami. Its magnitude was between 8,8 and 9,0.

The Richter scale

San Francisco 1906 earthquake

San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. Magnitude between 7,9 and 8,6

The typical effects that we can find according to the magnitude are those described below. However, it is important to take into account certain aspects. The effects they will have on the earth will depend not only on the magnitude, but also the distance from the epicenter, the depth, the location of the focus and the conditions of the geological terrain. In some they can amplify the power of earthquakes.

Magnitude 2,0 or less: Micro. Its effects are imperceptible. There are about 80.000 a day.

Magnitude 2,0 to 2,9: Less. Generally they cannot be perceived. There are about 1.000 daily.

Magnitude 3,0 to 3,9: Less. Often noticeable, but usually harmless. There are about 49.000 a year.

Magnitude 4,0 to 4,9: Light. Noise-generating and object movements, but with little damage. Around 6.200 a year.

Magnitude 5 to 5,9: Moderate. This type of earthquake can damage weak buildings and poorly constructed buildings. There are about 800 a year.

Magnitude 6 to 6,9: Strong. It can destroy populated areas even up to 160 miles around. Of these there are about 120 per year.

Magnitude 7 to 7,9: Higher. The damage they can cause is very severe over large areas. About 18 are produced annually.

Magnitude 8 to 8,9: Big. Here we already talk about Mega Terremos or Mega Seísmos. Damage zones are several hundred km. There are occasionally between 1 and 3 a year.

Magnitude 9 to 9,9: Big. Devastating in areas of several thousand km. Its frequency is 1 or 2 every 20 years.

Magnitude 10: Apocalyptic. It has never been recorded in our history nor are there records.

Recent Big One fears


A week ago An earthquake in the southern US sparked Big One fears. There were netizens who even said that it could cause the eruption of the Yellowstone volcano. The authorities registered 11.000 reports of affected people. The epicenter of the magnitude 5 earthquake, with several aftershocks of 4, occurred 9km southeast of Lincoln.

Knowing about the great volcanic and earthquake-prone area that is California, in the presence of the dreaded ghost of Big One, any anomaly suggests that it can occur immediately. The only thing that can be said about it is that it will happen. Knowing when is something that is present in everyone's mind.

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