California earthquake fault studied

Fault could generate earthquakes with magnitude up to 6.9 in Lake Tahoe area

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. | May 24, 2012

A U.S. Geological Survey study says faults west of Lake Tahoe, Calif., pose a substantial increase in the seismic hazard assessment for the surrounding region.

The fault could potentially generate earthquakes with magnitudes ranging from 6.3 to 6.9 in the Lake Tahoe region of California and Nevada, a USGS release said Wednesday.

Along with colleagues from the University of Nevada, Reno, the University of California, Berkeley, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, USGS researchers have confirmed the existence of previously suspected faults.

The scientists used high-resolution imaging technology known as bare-earth airborne LiDAR, or Light Detection And Ranging, that allowed them to "see" through dense forest cover and recognize earthquake faults not detectable with conventional aerial photography.

"This study is yet one more stunning example of how the availability of LiDAR information to precisely and accurately map the shape of the solid Earth surface beneath vegetation is revolutionizing the geosciences," USGS Director Marcia McNutt said.

Although the fault had been previously studied, researchers said, the LiDAR investigation revealed more data.

"Using the new LiDAR technology has improved and clarified previous field mapping, has provided visualization of the surface expressions of the faults, and has allowed for accurate measurement of the amount of motion that has occurred on the faults," USGS scientist James Howle said.

"The results of the study demonstrate that the Tahoe-Sierra frontal fault zone is an important seismic source for the region."

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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