Big Quake "Guaranteed" to Hit California by 2037

Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer, in Los Angeles
Associated Press
April 14, 2008

California faces an almost certain risk of being rocked by a strong earthquake by 2037, according to the first statewide temblor forecast, released today.

New calculations reveal there is a 99.7 percent chance a magnitude 6.7 quake or larger will strike in the next 30 years.

The odds of such an event are higher in southern California than northern California—97 percent versus 93 percent.

(Related: "Major Quake May Strike Bay Area Next Year, Experts Say" [December 12, 2007].)

The last time a jolt this size rattled California was the 1994 Northridge disaster, which killed 72 people, injured more than 9,000, and caused $25 billion (U.S.) in damage.

The analysis, titled the "Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast," took three years to complete.

It represents the first comprehensive effort by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC), and California Geological Survey to calculate quake probabilities for the entire state using newly available data.

The report "basically guarantees it's going to happen," said Ned Field, a USGS seismologist based in Pasadena and lead author of the study.

Wake-Up Call

California is one of the most seismically active regions in the world.

More than 300 faults crisscross the state, which sits atop the meeting of two of Earth's major tectonic plates, the Pacific and the North American.

About 10,000 quakes rattle southern California each year, although most of them are too small to be felt.

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