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Published July 8, 1988 | public
Journal Article

Irregular Recurrence of Large Earthquakes Along the San Andreas Fault: Evidence from Trees


Old trees growing along the San Andreas fault near Wrightwood, California, record in their annual ring-width patterns the effects of a major earthquake in the fall or winter of 1812 to 1813. Paleoseismic data and historical information indicate that this event was the "San Juan Capistrano" earthquake of 8 December 1812, with a magnitude of 7.5. The discovery that at least 12 kilometers of the Mojave segment of the San Andreas fault ruptured in 1812, only 44 years before the great January 1857 rupture, demonstrates that intervals between large earthquakes on this part of the fault are highly variable. This variability increases the uncertainty of forecasting destructive earthquakes on the basis of past behavior and accentuates the need for a more fundamental knowledge of San Andreas fault dynamics.

Additional Information

© 1988 American Association for the Advancement of Science. Received 16 March 1988; accepted 31 May 1988. We thank L. R. Sykes and E. R. Cook for reviews and L. O. White for field assistance. This work was supported by NSF grants EAR 85-19030 and EAR 87-07967 and U.S. Geological Survey grant 14-08- 0001-G1329 to G.C.J. and P.R.S. and U.S. Geological Survey grants 14-08-001-G1098 and G1370 to K.E.S. Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory contribution No. 4326; California Institute of Technology Geological and Planetary Sciences Contribution No. 4644.

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August 19, 2023
October 19, 2023