Some time in the next 30 years, a major earthquake will rock California. That’s a certainty in the eyes of scientists, who have been studying seismic activity for years in an effort to gain more insight into California’s future. The chances of a mega, magnitude-8 quake hitting the coastal state is now up to 7 percent, up from 4.7 percent based on past estimations. That’s a small figure, which pales in comparison to the greater than 99 percent change that California will be shaken by a magnitude-6.7 quake, similar in strength to the 1994 Northridge tragedy.

california earthquake damage

Scientists recalculated the risk of a mega quake after taking into consideration the possibility that several faults can shake at the same time and release seismic energy that would result in more devastation. The details of the earthquake projections were released this week by the U.S. Geological Survey. The latest seismic calculations nearly mirror the findings of a previous USGS study conducted in 2008, giving scientists even more confidence about the impending danger.

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These findings are likely to inspire fear, and researchers acknowledge that such a worry is part and parcel of the California life. “California is earthquake country,” acknowledges USGS geophysicist and lead author Ned Field, who advises, “Residents should live every day like it could be the day of a big one.”

Even recent technological advances in seismology, the study of earthquakes, don’t give scientists the ability to predict when or where an earthquake will actually occur. Although researchers are quite certain that their forecast is accurate, it’s impossible to pinpoint or prevent a major earthquake tragedy.


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