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In the film 2012, a 10.9 earthquake struck the Los Angeles area and sent swaths of the city tumbling into the ocean. The good news is that scientists don’t expect an earthquake of this movie magnitude to strike in our lifetimes. The bad news? A Big One is coming to Caifornia, soon.
An updated report — the Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast — from the U.S. Geological Society detailed the chances of a major earthquake in California. Will the Big One (an 8.0 or above) strike in our lifetimes? Most likely. Here’s the lowdown.
Chances of a 6.7 earthquake within the next 30 years actually decreased by 30 percent since 2008. Still, USGS researchers say that a quake of this magnitude is almost certain to happen. The 6.7 Northquake quake killed 60 people and racked up an estimated $49 million in damage to homes, business, and infrastructure.
Worse news: Chances of an 8.0 earthquake or larger increased from 4.7 to 7.0 percent. USGS researchers say the odds have increased “because of the growing understanding that earthquakes aren’t limited to separate faults, but can start on one fault and jump to others. The result could be multiple faults rupturing in a simultaneous mega-quake.” With several faults located in the Los Angeles area, the new findings predict far-reaching disaster if and when the 8.0 strikes.
Researchers arrived at the notion of fault-jumping earthquakes after analyzing the aftershocks of recent significant quakes (including the 2011 9.0 quake in Tohoku, Japan). In 2010, an initial quake and its aftershocks prompted further movement across six California faults. These faults affected heavily populated areas in LA county. Using imaging data, scientists found proof that quakes can “jump” between fault gaps that are up to seven miles wide. Another new finding? Quakes can also reverse direction.
The new likelihoods also sharpened researchers’ understanding of how often an 8.0 quake could occur in California. In 2008, they believed such a disaster would occur once every 617 years. By the new calculation method, the odds have increased to once every 494 years.
What would happen if the San Andreas Fault spawned an 8.0 earthquake in California? The USGS predicts an estimated $200 billion in damage, including 1,800 human casualties (plus 50,000 injuries); 1,600 fires; and 300,000 damaged homes and businesses. The USGS believes this quake is coming, and the southern San Andreas is “most likely to host a large earthquake.” With this newly discovered “interconnected fault system,” Californians should buckle up. The Big One is coming soon.
Source: U.S. Geological Survey