Scientists Say California’s Earthquake Drought Coming to An End
California’s earthquake drought won’t last forever.
According to new data by the USGS, the century between 1919 and 2018 is the only 100-year period in over the past 1,000 years where there hasn’t been an earthquake large enough along one of its active faults to break ground.
When, on average, there have been three to four earthquakes on these major fault lines every 100 years.
“The next century is unlikely to be as quiet as this one. It’s hard to beat,” said USGS seismologist Glenn Biasi, the lead author of the study (via the L.A. Times).
By comparison, the 1800s were a much more active time for earthquakes in California, with six large quakes hitting all three fault lines throughout the Golden State.
While the data suggests California is very overdue for a large – or multiple sizable – earthquakes, there’s still no telling when seismic activity will pick up.
But don’t kid yourself, the earthquakes will come. Earthquakes happen to relieve tectonic pressure along these fault lines. And right now, experts believe our earthquake drought may be a result of “things [getting] all locked up,” said Tom Jordan, USC professor of Geophysics.
“Once it gets going, it’s like a set of dominoes. You might get multiple events if you have enough strain energy stored in the crust, because it’s been a long time since an earthquake,” Jordan added.
While there have been milder earthquake storms in recent memory – the period between the 1980s and 1990s which saw six 4.0 magnitude or greater earthquakes throughout Southern California (including the Northridge earthquake of 1994, which killed 57 people), seismologists predict we’re due for a much larger earthquake storm.
“If we had earthquakes as frequently as we had prior to 1906 within the last 50 years, people would be a lot more in tune with what earthquakes can do, and have a lot more interest in earthquake preparedness,” said Tim Dawson, senior engineering geologist at the California Geological Survey.
As a result, a sudden increase in large earthquakes – those registering at a 6 magnitude, or bigger – would make it very difficult to recover, especially in densely populated areas.
For now, experts are suggesting that Californians begin mentally and physically preparing for the new era of earthquakes.
In addition to keeping an earthquake survival kit in your home, it’s important to be proactive about earthquake preparedness and have your properties retrofitted for seismic safety.
Julian De La Torre is an expert in Los Angeles foundation inspection, foundation contractors and foundation repair. Julian’s company, Julian Construction, has inspected over 15,000 structures, working with engineering firms and local departments of building & safety. The company has done more foundation repair and earthquake retrofitting in Los Angeles than any other company in the area over the last five years.