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Oil Drilling Might Have Been Responsible For The Deadliest Quake in SoCal History

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The deadliest earthquake in Southern California history may have been caused by oil drilling, according to the findings from a new study. The 1933 Long Beach earthquake, a magnitude 6.4 temblor that killed between 115 and 120 people, shook the region on March 10, 1933.

The L.A. Times reports that two leading U.S. Geological Survey scientists will release a study on Tuesday that not only links the '33 Long Beach quake to deep drilling in a Huntington Beach oil field, but also suggests that several other major earthquakes early 20th century quakes in the region could also be linked to drilling. Per the Times:

The two government scientists, Susan Hough and Morgan Page, wrote the report after a review of nearly forgotten state oil drilling records. They discovered that the epicenter of some of the Los Angeles Basin's largest earthquakes between 1900 and 1935 happened shortly after significant changes were made in oil production in nearby fields. During this era, the Los Angeles area was one of the world's leading oil producers.

If their research is confirmed, this would be the first time oil operations have been linked to a deadly quake in the U.S., according to CBS LA.

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Mark Benthien, communications director for the Southern California Earthquake Center, told LAist that although he wasn't familiar with a correlation between drilling and historical earthquakes, the oil being drilled for in these areas is actually present because of the fault.

"All along the Newport-Inglewood fault, which [the 1933 Long Beach] earthquake was on, there's been oil exploration," Benthien said, adding that there continues to be oil drilling in Baldwin Hills, Signal Hill, and "all points in between and along the fault."

"There's a particular structure of the fault that leads to layers of the ground being folded and trapping the oil so that the oil ponds together along the fault under these hills," he said.

It's important to note that, according to the Times, Hough and Page's study does not find any correlation between current drilling and recent quakes, and that drilling methods have become significantly safer in the interceding years.

According to Scientific American, Hough and Page's findings could "ultimately change scientists’ predictions for earthquakes in the Los Angeles Basin, and how well they understand man-made, or 'induced,' earthquakes around the country."