Is ‘The Big One’ Actually Coming to Los Angeles?

A teacher and students practice the drop, cover, and hold on technique during the "Great ShakeOut" earthquake drill at Marlton School in Los Angeles, California October 15, 2015. (PHOTO CREDIT: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni
A teacher and students practice the drop, cover, and hold on technique during the “Great ShakeOut” earthquake drill at Marlton School in Los Angeles, California October 15, 2015. (PHOTO CREDIT: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

A paper authored by a JPL scientist makes a controversial, pronouncement: In the Los Angeles region, the probability of an earthquake of a 5.0 or greater magnitude occurring in the next three years is 99.9 percent.

Published last month by the American Geophysical Union’s Earth and Space Science journal, the paper examines the potential for a large earthquake along the fault lines of the 2010 La Habra earthquake, a 5.1 magnitude quake in the L.A. area.

Andrea Donnellan, the study’s lead author and a principal research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says that the thrust of the paper was not to forecast L.A.’s next ‘big one.’ It was to show how new NASA-developed GPS and radar technologies developed can be used to detect how much energy lies latent below the earth’s surface following a quake. Based on what the technology revealed about the La Habra region, Donnellan says that her team found a potential for an earthquake between 6.1 and 6.3 magnitude. But she didn’t attach that probability to a time window.

“When you pull on a rubber band, you don’t know when it’s going to break, but you know it’s going to,” Donnellan says. “And if you pull harder you’re going to have a bigger snap.”

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SOURCE: CityLab, Laura Bliss