Geologist’s Research Estimates Large SoCal Earthquake
By Ashleigh Oldland
It’s not unusual to find professor Nate Onderdonk and his students digging trenches in the dirt at the base of Southern California’s San Jacinto Mountains, examining how the layers have been impacted by plate tectonics.
Onderdonk, 37, who teaches at California State University, Long Beach, is an expert when it comes to analyzing how landforms evolve through time and how faults change the landscape.
The professor received a $65,516 grant this year from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Earthquake Hazards Fund to continue his research and study the fault history of the San Jacinto Fault Zone, which he said is one of the state’s most seismically active areas and poses and threat to the Inland Empire.
Through his research, Onderdonk said he is looking for patterns with the hope that he might be able to roughly estimate when the next big earthquake in Southern California will take place. He believes such an event is due to happen anytime now.
“One of the main goals is to look for patterns — if there is a pattern, what is that pattern,” he explained. “So far, we’ve been able to document the timing of the last seven large earthquakes (larger than a 6.5 on the Richter scale), large enough to break the earth’s surface.