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Tsunamis Could Hit The California Coast: Should We Call The Rock?

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We had a good laugh when The Rock insisted that everything in the movie San Andreas could actually happen, but maybe we shouldn't laugh so loudly at the guy. It seems geologists are now saying that tsunamis—though maybe ones not quite as big as in the movie—could actually pose a threat to the California coast.

A new study suggests that vertical fault zones just off the coast of Southern California could trigger major earthquakes and send major tsunamis towards Los Angeles and San Diego. The report, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, takes a closer look at the fault-riddled undersea landscape known as the California Continental Borderland. Researchers took new seafloor depth measurements around the area and found that the undersea Cruz-Catalina Ridge fault and the Ferrelo fault look alarmingly similar to the closely-watched San Andreas fault. According to Mark Legg, geologist and co-author of the study, “We can have a very large earthquake, maybe up to magnitude 8, like the San Andreas, but maybe not as frequent. The San Andreas fault is moving fastest in California, so it has the large earthquakes most often.”

Unlike the San Andreas, these offshore faults move vertically as well as sideways, which is exactly the type of movement that could trigger significant tsunami activity. So, should we be calling on The Rock to help save us from potential tsunamis? Perhaps not so fast. Legg and his fellow researchers caution that while we should consider preparing for the possibility of a tsunami, there is no need to immediately panic (or call The Rock). The last big quake generated by those faults was in 1927 when a magnitude 7 Lompoc earthquake that generated a 6-foot tsunami about 100 miles west of Santa Barbara.

Still, the researchers point out that even a 6-foot tsunami could have a devastating impact on the ports of Southern California. Further study of the potential impact of these faults definitely merits further research, according to Legg: "We should not ignore the faults off shore. Yes, we should put our priorities on the faults onshore that go directly through cities and have the highest slip rates and most likely to produce large earthquakes ... But the offshore faults are a major player in the movement of the Pacific plate along the North American coast."

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So, while the Rock still isn't quite right about the size and scale of potential tsunamis along the California coast, maybe we'll still let him stick around with his sharp suits just in case.

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