Updated for the first time in 16 years, the California Geological survey added 50 new and previously known faults to its fault activity maps.
By updating the maps and releasing them to the media, state officials and earthquake experts hope that by putting all the faults on one map will not only increase public awareness, but aide residents in getting a grasp on fault line geography.
The faults added to the maps range in size from small ones that don’t pose any real threat to the large ones that are capable of producing major quakes, such as Southern California’s 1999 Hector Mine quake that registered a magnitude of 7.1.
While researchers have been aware of most of the faults that were added to the maps, the information was kept in scientific files and not available to the public.
Dr. Lucy Jones, Caltech seismologist, said:
"I think every classroom in California should have these maps on the wall," I don't think we do enough to educate the general public about these features. We turn it into something for the specialists, as if science is only for scientists.
“But if you're going to buy a house, would you like to know what fault is under your house?"
California has thousands of earthquake faults, and while adding 50 may not seem like a lot, earthquake experts said the new maps point to “a basic fact about seismology: The more scientists study quakes in California, the more faults and dangers they find.”
John Parrish, a geologist with the State of California, said,
"These maps are used to make a lot of other maps, to map landslides, areas where you have liquefaction because of earthquakes, for tsunami coastal mapping.
“They can be used to make decisions on where to build schools and hospitals, where you need a higher standard of construction. They can tell you what kind of a surface you're building on, and how close you are to a fault."
Parrish added that they hope the release of maps will also make the public more aware that the time is now to focus on earthquake preparedness.
It’s not a coincidence that the new maps have been released now, as public interest in quakes has risen since the recent quakes in Haiti and Chili, and especially last month’s 7.2 earthquake just south of the California in Mexicali, Mexico, which affected many Southern California communities.
The Mexicali quake has produced thousands of aftershocks, and earthquake scientists are working to figure why it has mysteriously produced many more aftershocks of 4.0 magnitude or greater than the number that normally follow a large quake, officials said.
As a result in the increase, officials said that 2010 looks like it will have far more quakes that are greater than 4.0 than any year in the previous decade, earthquake scientists said.