SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Recent storms may have ended the drought when it comes to water, but now California is in the midst of a drought of a different kind, according to scientists. Californians are experiencing an earthquake drought.

Seismologists are now saying there haven’t been enough powerful earthquakes in the past 100 years along California’s highest slip-rate faults, and a ground-rupturing quake with a magnitude greater than 7.0, is overdue.

A new study coming out Wednesday in the Seismological Research Letters says California’s current earthquake drought is unlike any other paleoseismic period in the last 1000 years.

The aim of the study titled, “The Current Unlikely Hiatus at California’s Transform Boundary Paleoseismic Sites,” was not to predict the likelihood next “big one.” Instead, it points to the unlikelihood of the last hundred years of relative seismic silence.

Researchers at the US Geological Survey analyzed data from the San Andreas, San Jacinto, Elsinore and Hayward faults and identified eight ground-rupturing quakes between 1800 and 1918. That includes the devastating 1906 quake in San Francisco with an estimated magnitude of 7.9, and a similar earthquake in 1857 in southern California. These quakes’ destructive force broke through the surface of the earth’s crust.

There have been no quakes comparable in size, since 1918, and the study says the current hiatus is “exceptional.”

“If our work is correct, the next century isn’t going to be like the last one, but could be more like the century that ended in 1918,” said lead researcher Glenn Biasi. “We know these big faults have to carry most of the [tectonic] motion in California, and sooner or later they have to slip. The only questions are how they’re going to let go and when.”

Californians survived one of the worst water droughts in recorded history through a combination of public policy and individual conservation. As for the current earthquake drought and the devastating seismic activity it may foretell, residents must manage this, as well. Survival kits, emergency preparedness plans, early warning systems will all work to help Californians survive the end of the current seismic drought.

For information about earthquake preparedness, drills and more, go to earthquake.usgs.gov.


CBSSF.com writer, producer Jan Mabry is also executive producer Bay Sunday, Black Renaissance and host of The Bronze Report. She lives in Northern California. Follow her on Twitter @janmabr.

 

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