Newport-Inglewood Fault Leaking Helium, Chance Of ‘Big One’ Earthquake In Los Angeles Increases

Scientists have discovered, much to their surprise, that the Newport-Inglewood fault near Los Angeles is leaking helium. The presence of helium-3 is significant, as it indicates that the fault is much deeper than previously thought. The only place that helium-3, a throw-back from the Big Bang, is present on Earth is in the mantle. Therefore, the Newport-Inglewood fault must maintain a significant pathway through the earth’s crust to be leaking the gas. This means that, contrary to previously held notions about the fault line, the Newport-Inglewood fault has the potential produce “the big one,” an earthquake of magnitude 8 or higher, in California.

The Daily Mail reports that geologist Jim Boles from UC Santa Barbara found evidence of helium leaking from the Newport-Inglewood fault near Los Angeles. The findings came as a surprise to the geologist, as it was previously believed that the Newport-Inglewood fault was a low-angle thrust fault and much shallower, as it is a 30-million year old subduction zone. However, the new findings suggest that the fault is, in fact, much deeper, and has a direct link with the earth’s mantle.

The research notes that not only is the Newport-Inglewood fault leaking helium-3 from the earth’s mantle, it is also leaking it at a higher rate than the more widely-feared San Andreas fault.

“This paper shows that the mantle is leaking more at the Newport-Inglewood fault zone than at the San Andreas Fault, which is a new discovery.”

Boles points out that these findings indicate that the Newport-Inglewood fault may be significantly more important than previously thought.

“Our findings indicate that the Newport-Inglewood fault is a lot more important than previously thought, but time will tell what the true importance of all this is.”

According to Phys.org, Boles findings were published in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems (G-Cubed), an electronic journal of the American Geophysical Union and the Geochemical Society, and that one-third of the sites tested had the presence of helium-3. Due to these interesting new findings, scientists have increased the estimated change of “the big one” hitting California in the next 30 years.

“The estimate for the likelihood that California will experience a magnitude 8 or larger earthquake in the next 30 years has increased from about 4.7 to about 7.0 percent.”

What do you think about the new findings that the Newport-Inglewood fault near Los Angeles is much deeper than previously thought? How do you feel about the increased estimation that California will experience a large earthquake, or “the big one,” within the next 30 years?

[Image Credit: USGS]