‘The Big One’ is Almost Certain to Hit California by 2045

January 31, 2018 Last Updated: January 31, 2018

An article published Jan. 30 by The Conversation has started quite a few conversations about ‘The Big One.’

The article titled “California’s other drought: A major earthquake is overdue” is the work of Geophysics Professor Richard Aster of Colorado State University, and what this academic has to say in the article is pretty alarming.

The basis for the article is a US geological Survey report from 2014 which outlines the third iteration of forecasting efforts for the earthquake-prone region – the Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast (UCERF3).

The report outlines a lower probability of smaller quakes—but an increase in the likelihood of ‘The Big One’ when compared to the previous 2007 forecast report.

Forecasters estimate that the probability of an earthquake of magnitude 6.7 to 7.0 or greater hitting California by 2045 is upwards of 93 percent—and a quake of at least 6.7 magnitude is a virtual certainty.

UCERF 3
Earthquake forecast published in 2014 listing magnitudes (greater than or equal to) for potential seismic activity and their 30-year likelihood for the Greater California region. (UCERF 3)

The expectation of a magnitude 8 quake or greater since the last 2007 report has jumped from under five to seven percent. The odds of at least a 6.7–7 quake have skyrocketed.

As the report repeats a couple of times, “California is earthquake country.”

California straddles two tectonic plates, the North American and Pacific plates. These two tectonic plates, huge slabs of rock floating on a layer of magma, are constantly grinding against each other.

Caltrans workers carry materials to be used as reinforcement of the quake-ravaged Cypress Structures on Interstate 880 October 22, 1989 in San Francisco after a quake erupted 17 October 17 in San Francisco Bay Area, killing an estimated 273 people and doing $1 billion-worth of damage. (Chris Wilkins/AFP/Getty Images)
Caltrans workers carry materials to be used as reinforcement of the quake-ravaged Cypress Structures on Interstate 880 Oct. 22, 1989, in San Francisco after a quake erupted Oct. 17, 1989, in San Francisco Bay Area, killing an estimated 273 people and doing $1 billion-worth of damage. (Chris Wilkins/AFP/Getty Images)
General view of the Marina district disaster zone after an earthquake, measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale, rocks game three of the World Series between the Oakland A's and San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park on October 17, 1989 in San Francisco, California. (Otto Greule Jr /Getty Images)
General view of the Marina district disaster zone after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocks game three of the World Series between the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park on Oct. 17, 1989 in San Francisco, California. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Cars lie smashed by the collapsed Interstate 5 connector ramp on January 17, 1994 following a 6,6 earthquake that claimed at least 28 lives. (Jonathan Nourok/AFP/GettyImages)
Cars lie smashed by the collapsed Interstate 5 connector ramp on Jan. 17, 1994 following a 6.6 magnitude earthquake that claimed at least 28 lives. (Jonathan Nourok/AFP/GettyImages)
A for sale sign is posted on the back of an earthquake-damaged car on August 26, 2014 in Napa, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A for sale sign is posted on the back of an earthquake-damaged car on Aug. 26, 2014 in Napa, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

But the longer the plates push without giving, the greater the pressure build-up in the fault line between them

That pressure has been building for over a century along the northernmost reaches of the San Andreas fault. There hasn’t been an event of magnitude 7 or greater since the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

The Hayward fault, which underlies the highly urbanized East Bay region, hasn’t had a severe tremor since 1868.

The situation is even more worrying south of the Bay area.

The south-central section of that fault system has not seen major motion since 1857, and the southern end has not released its pressure since 1680.

Based on how long the pressures have been building, the Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast was updated.

It looks like big quake is certain to come, and it could come any day now. And according to the report, the longer we have to wait, the worse it is likely to be.

Although earthquakes are still impossible to predict with pinpoint accuracy, the good news is that our understanding and ability to monitor earthquakes continues to advance and the Pacific Coast now has in place an early warning system.

Our the ability to predict their probability has improved thanks to modern global seismographic networks.

This helps with the planning of earthquake readiness and resource commitments in the communities at risk to mitigate risks and prevent loss of life in the event of a major quake, Aster explains.

But with such a big gap in time between big quakes, community readiness for such disasters poses a more difficult challenge to address.

From NTD.tv

 

Recommended Video:

Timelapse Video Captures ‘Ocean’ of Clouds Over Vancouver, British Columbia