Despite being criticized for its shaky science, the release of “San Andreas” — starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a rescue-chopper pilot trying to save his family — has triggered a scientific debate over whether the catastrophe shown in the movie could happen in real life. The disaster flick shows a massive earthquake caused by a shift in the San Andreas Fault, which forms the tectonic boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate.
In a new study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, scientists warn that while the extent of damage shown in the movie is unlikely to happen in real life, there are several long faults with the potential for tsunami-generating earthquakes within 90 miles of the U.S. West Coast.
“There are many active faults offshore southern California which could produce greater then magnitude 7 quakes and tsunamis,” Mark Legg, who runs a Southern California consulting firm called Legg Geophysical and is the lead author of the study, told Discovery News. However, he added, unlike the movie, such disasters would probably be caused by the little known California Continental Borderland — an undersea landscape off the coast of Southern California and northern Baja California.
The surveys of the region show a “complicated logjam” of faults produced by the movement of the Pacific Plate, which is sliding northwest relative to the North American Plate. For the purpose of this study, Legg and his colleagues collected data about seafloor depth to work out the lengths of two of the largest faults in this logjam — the Santa Cruz-Catalina Ridge Fault and the Ferrelo Fault.
SOURCE: Avaneesh Pandey
International Business Times