Earlier this year, scientists scared the begeezus out of West coast residents by warning that a huge “mega quake” could hit in the next 30 years. Now, geophysicists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, where they study a lot more than jets, are pushing the boundaries of the human psyche by telling people of the drought-stricken state that there is a 99 percent probability that a major earthquake will rock California within the next two-and-a-half years. JPL scientists have been using radar and GPS technology to monitor tectonic movements in an attempt to predict such a disaster, and they now believe it’s extremely likely that an earthquake measuring more than 5.0 on the Richter scale will strike Southern California.

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Dr. Andrea Donnellan, geophysicist at NASA’s JPL, has leading a team of seven other scientists in the effort to narrow down the when and where of California’s next moderately sized earthquake. Donnellan and the team believe there is enough energy stored in the upper sediments of the L.A. basin to “produce about a magnitude 6.1 to 6.3 earthquake.”

Using computer modeling, the team measured the likelihood of an earthquake similar to the 5.1 La Habra quake that hit Los Angeles in March 2014. For the 60-mile radius of the LA area, the results indicated a 99-percent probability of a magnitude 5.0 or higher quake in the next three years.

Related: The mega earthquake that will probably someday wipe Seattle off the map

The JPL prediction lines up with forecasts from US Geological Survey seismologists in terms of location and potential strength of the next big quake, but the two teams differ when it comes to the timeline. The USGS has previously suggested that a mega quake will come sometime in the next few decades, while JPL scientists are feeling confident with their prediction of a much shorter window of time. For people living where earthquakes literally come with the territory, both agencies stress that it’s best to be prepared at all times, regardless of who is saying what kind of quake will hit when.


Images via NASA JPL and Shutterstock