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Urban areas in Southern California are at risk from major earthquakes, not only quakes generated by long-recognized onshore faults but also ones that occur along poorly understood offshore faults. We summarize recent research findings concerning these lesser known faults. Research by the U.S. Geological Survey during the past five years indicates that these faults from the eastern Santa Barbara Channel south to Dana Point pose a potential earthquake threat. Historical seismicity in this area indicates that, in general, offshore faults can unleash earthquakes having at least moderate (M 5–6) magnitude.

Estimating the earthquake hazard in Southern California is complicated by...

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