I was intrigued by this Slate piece, more or less a summary of Amos et al. (2014)'s Nature article, which essentially states that groundwater depletion and subsequent crustal unloading causes a decrease in the stress normal to the San Andreas fault, thus bringing the fault "closer to failure" (to quote from the abstract).
Does that mean, as Eric Holthaus, the author of the Slate post suggests, Amos and his co-authors believe that due to the drought, the next "major" earthquake may not be quite as significant in magnitude? (The idea being that an increase in small-magnitude slip events over several years will help ease the intensity of short-period rupture propagation during a larger event?) Or, does it mean that the released stress is just being redistributed to locked sections of the fault system, which I assume experience decreased Mohr–Coulomb forces due to the region wide groundwater draw down? Elsewhere in the Slate article, for example, Holthaus notes that the August 2014 Napa Earthquake actually redistributed some of its released stress onto the Hayward Fault, which doesn't quite seem to support the "easing" hypothesis.
Am I wrong in thinking that the two ideas referenced (easing vs. redistribution) might be mutually exclusive? I sort of wish Holthaus had delved a little deeper in his analysis, since it seems that the clarity of the Slate article takes a fair hit from this inconsistency.