Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Parkfield is located at 35.899N, 120.431W1. Its elevation is 1,530 feet.
The town itself is located in the central coastal range in Central California . Mining used to be a prosperous activity in this community, but the mines were exhausted below economic recovery levels and the industry moved elsewhere. Today, it is a small town of about 900 people who are mostly ranchers and farmers or merchants supporting these activities. There is a small tourism industry in the town that basis itself on the prospect of earthquakes (see the geology section below). The Parkfield slogan is, "Eat here when it happens, Sleep here when it happens."
Parkfield lies along the San Andreas Fault, one of the longest and most geologically active faults. Parkfield traditionally has an earthquake of 6 or greater magnitude every 22 years. In 1985, the US Geological Survey predicted that there would be a major earthquake in this community in 1993, but no such earthquake came until September 28, 2004 when a magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck at 10:15 am Pacific Daylight Time. As the earthquake was eleven years overdue it lends some credence to the folk saying "a watched pot never boils". The additional time did offer the opportunity to add improvements in instrumentation as the technology was further developed.
Parkfield is the most closely observed earthquake zone in the world. Scientists measure the strain in rocks, heat flow, and geomagnetism constantly around Parkfield. The observance of the San Andreas fault in Parkfield will hopefully help scientists understand earthquakes and maybe some day predict major earthquakes along the San Andreas fault and across the world.
Since 1985, the United States Geological Survey has been working on a project known as "The Parkfield Experiment", a long-term research project on the San Andreas fault. "The experiment's purpose is to better understand the physics of earthquakes - what actually happens on the fault and in the surrounding region before, during and after an earthquake"
In 2004, work began just north of Parkfield on the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD). The goal of SAFOD is to drill a hole nearly 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) into the Earth's crust and into the San Andreas Fault. An array of sensors will be installed to capture and record earthquakes that happen near this area. This is expected to be completed midyear 2005. It will be located at the source of numerous microquakes that have a magnitude of around 1.0.
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