A magnitude 2.6 earthquake rumbled through Gardena on Wednesday evening, causing light or weak shaking to be felt across the Los Angeles Basin, from Santa Monica to Long Beach.
The temblor occurred at 10:40 p.m. at a depth of about 8 miles. Residents who felt the earthquake closest to the epicenter and reported it to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Did You Feel It? website reported feeling the equivalent of Intensity 4 shaking on the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale, which is light shaking too weak to cause any damage.
Areas farther from the epicenter, from the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the Westside, felt Intensity 2 to Intensity 3 shaking, or light shaking.
The epicenter of the earthquake was close to the mapped traces of the Newport-Inglewood/Rose Canyon fault system, responsible for the devastating magnitude 6.4 Long Beach earthquake of 1933 that killed 120 people — the deadliest earthquake on record in Southern California.
The Newport-Inglewood/Rose Canyon fault has long been considered one of Southern California’s top seismic danger zones because it runs under some of the region’s most densely populated areas, which stretches from the border of Beverly Hills and Los Angeles through Long Beach and the Orange County coast to downtown San Diego.
A study released two years ago suggested that earthquakes as large as magnitudes 6.8 to 7.5 have struck the Newport-Inglewood/Rose Canyon fault system. A magnitude 7.5 earthquake on that fault system would bring massive damage throughout Southern California, and would produce 45 times more energy than the 1933 earthquake.
Scientists had believed the Newport-Inglewood fault ruptured in a major earthquake once every 2,300 years on average; latest results suggest that a major earthquake could come once every 700 years on average. The study was based on new evidence of temblors on the fault centuries ago so violent that they caused a section of Seal Beach near the Orange County coast to fall 1 1/2 to 3 feet in a matter of seconds.
“It’s not just a gradual sinking. This is boom — it would drop. It’s very rapid sinking,” said the lead author of the report, Robert Leeper, a geology graduate student at UC Riverside who worked on the study as a Cal State Fullerton student and geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, in 2017.
The idea that the Newport-Inglewood fault could produce more powerful earthquakes than what happened in 1933 has been growing over the decades. Scientists have come to the consensus that the Newport-Inglewood fault could link up with the San Diego County coast’s Rose Canyon fault, producing a theoretical magnitude 7.5 earthquake based on the length of the combined fault system.
Earthquakes in the magnitude 2 range are quite common in California. There have been more than 200 such earthquakes over the last month in the California and Nevada areas — on average, about seven per day.
Scientists say that California is in an earthquake drought. Experts say this calm period will eventually end, with destructive results, but they don’t know when this well-documented geological pattern will shift.
Read more about Southern California earthquakes.