Chile's big quake is not California's fault, scientists say

Story highlights

  • Southern California was rattled by temblors for weeks before big quake in Chile
  • The two sites lie on different faults, so the seismic activity is not related, scientists say
  • The cluster of quakes is "just a natural cycle of seismicity," experts says
The powerful 8.2-magnitude earthquake that struck northern Chile on Tuesday night came after a series of quakes had shaken the Los Angeles area in recent weeks.
Could there be a link between these recent seismic events? Do they portend a larger and perhaps more dire planetary crisis? A sign that a tectonic doomsday may soon be upon us?
"No," said Dr. Gavin Hayes, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center.
"Totally unrelated," agreed Cal Tech geophysicist Mark Simons.
"The most important thing everyone needs to remember is these are two of some of the most seismologically active places in the world," CNN meteorologist Indra Petersons said.
So you can rest a little easier, Californians. Your state and Chile lie on different faults that "are too far apart" for the earthquakes to be linked, according to Hayes.
Chile's latest quake occurred between the Nazca and South America plates along the Peru-Chile Trench, a region that "has produced some of the largest earthquakes in the world," according to the USGS website.
The Los Angeles-area quakes occurred within the Puente Hills thrust zone, which while not as large or as well-known as California's infamous San Andreas fault, is potentially as destructive because of its precarious location under downtown Los Angeles, according to CNN meteorologist Sean Morris.
As for why the quakes all occurred around the same time period: "It's just a natural cycle of seismicity," Hayes said.
But even though the earthquakes are not linked, anyone living in "seismologically active places" should nevertheless always be prepared.
"Angelinos should use what's been going on in the last few weeks as a reminder to get their stuff in order so they are not surprised," Simons said.