Disaster Porn

san_andreas_fault_-_carrizo_plains.jpgEverywhere I go today, even at my own dinner table, I'm hearing about this.

Southern California could be in line for a serious quake along the infamous San Andreas fault, seismologists have found. New measurements suggest that the region close to Los Angeles, the traditional earthquake location in Hollywood disaster movies, could feel the effects of a real-life tremor within the next few years.

The southern part of the San Andreas seems to be building up a considerable amount of strain, the work suggests. And because no significant earthquake has ruptured this portion of the fault for at least the past 250 years, it could be primed to cause a devastating event.

"It could be tomorrow; it could be ten years from now," says Yuri Fialko, a geophysicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California, who led the study. "But it appears unlikely to accumulate another few hundred years of strain."

This is news? Southern Californians don't know this? I've been hearing about the buildup in the southern part of the San Andreas fault all my life. We've known about this fault since 1895.

In the interests of science, of course we need to know with more precision why and how the Pacific and North American plates will next slip, but until they can tell us when, it's not really news.

Look around you. If you're anywhere near LA, you can probably see, through the haze, a mountain. That mountain is not God's Play-Dough. Our landscape was created violently. It will eventually throw us into the sea, or bury us, or lift the ground beneath our feet above our heads. We love it here. And we love hearing about how we're all doomed. I guess that's why a study like this gives our news anchors the vapors. We're turned on by the dangerous types.

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