For San Francisco "The Big One" may be soon - FOX 32 News Chicago

For San Francisco "The Big One" may be soon

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Scientists believe a cluster of devastating earthquakes could strike San Francisco in the next 18 years.

In 1906 San Francisco was nearly flattened when a major earthquake struck the city. Since that time there have been only a handful of large quakes in that area and now scientists are predicting a 63 percent chance that a major earthquake or series of major quakes will strike the Bay Area before the year 2032. The findings were part of a recent report in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

According to researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) the Bay Area sits atop a series of dangerous fault lines including the San Andreas, the Northern Calaveras, the Rogers Creek, the San Gregorio and the Hayward. All of these faults were responsible for 6.6 to 7.9 magnitude earthquakes between 1690 and 1906.

Faults are created as the tectonic plates coving our planet slide past each other. These plates connect the surface of the Earth and are always in motion. Some plates slide past each other, some slide beneath each other and some pull apart. Friction is caused as the plates move against each other and pressure builds until it reaches a critical stress level leading to an earthquake which relieves the pressure. Following a major quake there is usually a quiet period while the plates build pressure again.

In the case of San Francisco the plates have been shifting for over 100 years and the pressure may be ready to trigger a quake. The plates controlling the Bay Area faults are the North America plate which is sliding southward past the Pacific plate at about 2 inches per year.

Another concern is whether a large urban city like San Francisco is ready to face a cluster of major earthquakes let alone “The Big One”. No densely populated city in the US has experienced an earthquake cluster in the past 100 years.

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