A comparison of the distribution of thermal and thermal-related springs and wells in southern California, United States, and Baja California, Mexico, with the abundance of earthquakes of magnitude 4 or greater shows as close a relationship between thermal waters and the distribution of seismicity as to the distribution of active faults. It appears that the distribution of thermal water variations in the geothermal gradient in turn influences the stress accumulation capability of the rocks at depth. Thus, areas with abundant thermal waters (and hence steep geothermal gradients) release stress by frequent moderate earthquakes; areas lacking thermal waters, such as the central Transverse Ranges, accumulate stresses that are released by infrequent large earthquakes.

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