Fault-y Logic: The Chance of an 8.0 Quake Hitting California Reaches a New Highpoint

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Here’s some cheery news for your Wednesday: According to a new forecast from researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey, our chances of experiencing a magnitude 8.0 or greater earthquake sometime in the next 30 years has increased from 4.7 percent to 7 percent. In other words, don’t invest in real estate over the course of the next three decades.

The stat comes to us from the USGS’ Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast, or the UCERF3, which was last released in 2008. In a statement, seismologist and lead author of the report Ned Field revealed that “The new likelihoods are due to the inclusion of possible multi-fault ruptures, where earthquakes are no longer confined to separate, individual faults, but can occasionally rupture multiple faults simultaneously.” Think of it as a terrifying game of dominoes.

Of all the faults the USGS is concerned with, Big Daddy San Andreas is the main issue, mostly because it’s the geological equivalent of an ill-tempered toddler. What’s more, it is overdue for a tremor of epic and horrifying proportions, as the last time one occurred was around 1690. Per the UCERF3, the southern section of the fault (particularly the part that runs through the Mojave) wins the award for “most likely to host a large earthquake,” with a 19 percent chance of a 6.7 magnitude or larger quake happening within the next 30 years. “We are fortunate that seismic activity in California has been relatively low over the past century,” UCERF3 co-author Tom Jordan said, “but we know that tectonic forces are continually tightening the springs of the San Andreas fault system, making big quakes inevitable.”

If you need us, we’ll be reinforcing our foundations.

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