Local Scientists Debunk Latest California 'Big One' Prediction

Published : Wednesday, August 22, 2018 | 5:29 AM

A flurry of dozens of earthquakes in recent days along the “Ring of Fire” at the opposite end of the Pacific Ocean has spurred on speculation that the “The Big One” is just on the horizon here in California.

But experts here in Pasadena and the Southland say regardless of the seismic activity around the Pacific Basin, a massive earthquake is no more, or less, likely than any other time.

The pop-culture theory, as laid out in a recent Daily Mail article, suggests that since California shares a tectonic plate with the Ring of Fire, earthquakes there could trigger others here.

Earthquake expert, author and former Pasadena-based USGS seismologist Lucy Jones said that’s not how it works.

While earthquakes can trigger others locally — up to 1,000 miles or so away, in extreme cases — the effects simply don’t have ocean-crossing potential, she explained.

“Earthquakes are fundamentally random. We don’t like that emotionally, so a lot of people try to create patterns,” she said.

“It’s an emotional reaction to a random distribution,” Jones added. “We are evolved to create patterns in the face of danger.

The Daily Mail points to 69 significant earthquakes reported in the region in a 48-hour period on Sunday and Monday.

The vast majority were well below 4.5 magnitude. But one almost 350 miles deep in the ocean near Fiji reached a staggering 8.2-magnitude.

A series of deadly and damaging quakes on the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok over the past month killed at least 479 people, the Associated Press reports.

Nonetheless, Caltech seismologist Jennifer Andrews said there’s no cause for alarm on the West Coast of the U.S.

“The Pacific Ring of Fire is very seismically active. It doesn’t mean that California is at any greater risk than usual from earthquakes,” she said.

And the size of most of the quakes was also less than impressive, according to Andrews.

“People are going to feel a 4.5 certainly, but… there’s just so much activity at that magnitude level around the world all the time that it’s not going to wake us up at night.”

But the everyday threat of a massive earthquake in Southern California remains very real, the experts said.

“Obviously we are very seismically active here in California and there is always a risk that we will have “The Big One,” Andrews said. “But the activity elsewhere around the Pacific Ring of fire doesn’t elevate our risk.”

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