Natural Sciences

99% risk of major earthquake in California in next 30 years

The latest Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast(UCERF3), estimates that there is a 99 percent probability of a 6.7 plus earthquake occurring in the greater California area within the next 30 years.  The highest risk is along the San Andreas fault system.

California sits between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates. Most Californians live within 30 miles (48.28km) of an active fault. The bulk of the population is located on the Pacific plate which is drifting northwest at a rate of around 2 inches (5.08cm) per year according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Two types of scientific model are used by the aurothorities to help safeguard against earthquake losses; an Earthquake Rupture Forecast, which estimates where and when the Earth might slip along the state’s many faults, and a Ground Motion Prediction model, which estimates the subsequent shaking given one of the fault ruptures. UCERF3 represents the “best available science”, on the latest earthquake-rupture forecast for California including; magnitude, location, and the likelihood of earthquake fault rupture.

Geologists continue to find new faults. In 1988 the Working Group on California Earthquake Probabilities (WGCEP), identified only 16 different faults, by 2007 there were about 200. With UCERF3, now using space-based geodesy in areas where geologic data was limited, they have identified more than 350 fault sections in the model.

The California Earthquake Authority is the largest residential earthquake insurance provider in the state. By law, it is required to use the “best available science” to evaluate insurance premiums charged to customers. Hence the identification of new faults contineus to push up insurance rates in California. UCERF3 is also used to update public safety risk mitigations to include building codes, emergency plans. The historical progression of models allows scientists to provide more accurate, detailed, and sophisticated representations of a complex and natural system, greatly assisting in mitigating future losses. However, the model is also a reminder of the inevitability of a major earthquake event in the region in the future.

This article was attributed and provided by PG International


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