Japan Quake Won't Impact Local Faults

A lot of people are wondering if the huge quake in Japan has any impact on quake predictions here in California

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    PALM SPRINGS, CA - JANUARY 16: Groves of native palm trees dot the southern San Andreas earthquake fault which forces water to the surface, forming a string of desert oases in unlikely places, on January 16, 2010 northeast of Palm Springs, California. The January 12 magnitude 7.0 earthquake in Haiti suggests that the record-breaking earthquake could strike at any time on this section of the San Andreas Fault. Scientific consensus states a 99.7 percent chance that a magnitude 6.7 quake or larger will strike by 2037 on the southern portion of the 800-mile-long San Andreas Fault, east of Los Angeles. This section of the fault has had very little slippage for more than 300 years and has built up immense pressure that could touch off a significant earthquake at any time, according to seismologists. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

    The immediate after effects of a massive earthquake in Japan are already being felt in the California coastal cities of Santa Cruz and Crescent City, but what are the long term ramifications on hte Bay Area?

    With some of the Bay Area's faults over due for a massive quake, the Federal Emergency Management Agency answered questions Friday about whether Japan's tremor could mean shaky times are ahead for the Bay Area.

    Eric Geist, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey said Friday that historically when there is a large quake in one region it releases stress from one fault but adds stress to others, which means another quake could be triggered in that area.

    "Any time there's an earthquake, it's reliving stress in the Earth's crust and driving it up in others," he said. "But that is more of a regional effect."

    But he said there isn't evidence to suggest that the release of pressure on the Earth's crust could transfer across the Ring of Fire to California.

    Greg Beroza, a professor and the chair of Stanford's Geophysics Department, said earthquakes are thought to influence the probabilities of other earthquakes primarily through the change in stress they induce on faults.

    "The earthquake in Japan substantially influenced the stress on faults over much of Japan; however, as large as the earthquake was, the west coast of the US is so distant from Japan that the change in stress is too small to expect an impact on earthquake activity,"  he said.