Geologists Warning That Southern California Is Overdue For a Major And Possibly Catastrophic Earthquake

Early Warning
The U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) along with a coalition of State and university partners is developing and testing an earthquake early warning (EEW)  for the west coast of the United States. Long term funding must be secured before the system can begin sending general public notifications, however, some limited pilot projects are active and more are being developed. The USGS has set the goal of beginning limited public notifications by 2018.

Geologists are out with a startling warning that Southern California is overdue for a major and possibly catastrophic earthquake. A new study says it's expected to hit along the San Andreas Fault north of Los Angeles. It could have a magnitude of 7.5 or higher. 

Southern California could be overdue for a major earthquake along the Grapevine north of Los Angeles, according to a sobering new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The research found earthquakes happen there on average every 100 years. The last major temblor occurred 160 years ago, a catastrophic geological event that ruptured an astonishing 185 miles of the San Andreas fault.

The land on either side of the fault has been pushing against the other at a rate of more than 1 inch a year since 1857, the researchers said, accumulating energy that will be suddenly released in a major earthquake, when the land along the fault would move by many feet.

“So you expect that amount of accumulation of energy will be released in the future in a large-magnitude rupture, somewhere along the San Andreas,” said the lead author of the study, USGS research geologist Kate Scharer.

There are no reports of damage. The quake hit just hours after the release of a disturbing new government report that shows seismic activity in parts of the country's midsection are now as dangerous as in California and Alaska. For the first time, government scientists are including man-made quakes on its earthquake hazard map. CBS News science and futurist contributor Michio Kaku — also a physics professor at the City University of New York — joins “CBS This Morning” to explain the cause and dangers of the growing threat and preventive measures.


David Nabhan has been advocating for the creation of an earthquake warning system for the US West Coast for the last two decades. In the first half, he discussed his plan with zero cost and available for implementation tomorrow whereby newspapers and other media might publish higher probability advisories for elevated seismic risks. The idea that seismic windows can't be predicted is outdated, he argued, as lunar and solar gravitational forces, as well as tides, have repeatedly been shown to trigger earthquakes. Tides, he explained, are associated with small quakes, but these can then turn into much larger seismic events. 

The next big one for California is on the horizon, he believes, and it's more probable that it will happen between 4:55-7:55 AM or PM, and near in time to the syzygies (the day of the new moon, or the full moon). California has done a decent job on earthquake preparedness, and the USGS is working on a system that would give residents a 10-15 seconds advance warning that something was coming, if they are far enough away from the epicenter. Nabhan also spoke about major seismic events of the past such as the Loma Prieta quake of 1989, and the New Madrid quakes of 1811-12 in Missouri, which were so strong they were felt all along the East Coast. 


USGS study: Southern California overdue for major earthquake.

The study shows the state “needs to consider more seriously” the earthquake risk in that area.

All of the four vulnerable fault segments belong to the San Andreas fault system, the geological dividing line that marks where the western half of California shifts northwest and away from the rest of North America at about 2 inches a year.

The other fault sections that have built up enough tension for a temblor with a magnitude of 6.8 or greater are the northern Calaveras and Hayward faults in the east San Francisco Bay area and the Rodgers Creek fault to the north, scientists concluded in a study published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.


The USGS will issue public warnings of potentially damaging earthquakes and provide warning parameter data to government agencies and private users on a region-by-region basis, as soon as the ShakeAlert system, its products, and its parametric data meet minimum quality and reliability standards in those geographic regions. The USGS has set the goal of beginning limited public notifications by 2018.

Earthquakes pose a national challenge because more than 143 million Americans live in areas of significant seismic risk across 39 states. Most of our Nation’s earthquake risk is concentrated on the West Coast of the United States. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has estimated the average annualized loss from earthquakes, nationwide, to be $5.3 billion, with 77 percent of that figure ($4.1 billion) coming from California, Washington, and Oregon, and 66 percent ($3.5 billion) from California alone. In the next 30 years, California has a 99.7 percent chance of a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake and the Pacific Northwest has a 10 percent chance of a magnitude 8 to 9 megathrust earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone.

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