Flooding of Ancient Salton Sea Linked to San Andreas Earthquakes

Southern California’s Salton Sea, once a large natural lake fed by the Colorado River, may play an important role in the earthquake cycle of the southern San Andreas Fault and may have triggered large earthquakes in the past.

Researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the University of Nevada, Reno, discovered new faults in the Salton Sea near the southern end of the San Andreas Fault. By examining displacement indicators preserved in pristine sedimentary deposits, the team reconstructed their earthquake history and found evidence for coincident timing between flooding of the ancient Salton Sea and fault rupture. Rupture on these newly discovered "stepover" faults has the potential to trigger large earthquakes on the southern San Andreas Fault.

The report appears in the online version of the journal Nature Geoscience on June 26.

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This map shows the current Salton Sea boundaries and outline of Lake Cahuilla at its peak size as well as locations of major area faults. (Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego)

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