NASA to LA: Get Ready for 5.0 Quake
But JPL study is a bit controversial
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 21, 2015 4:02 PM CDT
This 2007 aerial file photo provided by United States Geological Survey shows a view looking southeast along the surface trace of the San Andreas fault in the Carrizo Plain area of California.   (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey, Scott Haefner, File)
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(Newser) – NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is out with a study predicting that Los Angeles has a 99.9% chance of experiencing an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.0 or greater within the next two and a half years. "There’s enough energy stored to produce about a magnitude 6.1 to 6.3 earthquake" with an epicenter in La Habra, which was hit by a quake in 2014, says a JPL geophysicist, per CBS LA. Earthquake scientists used information from the La Habra quake to make their predictions, and found that there's a 35% chance of an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.0 or greater, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. But other experts aren't convinced; KPCC goes so far as to call the JPL study "controversial."

As the US Geological Survey notes, "the accepted random chance of a (magnitude 5.0) or greater in this area in three years is 85%, independent of the analysis in this paper." Plus, JPL's research "has not yet been examined by the long-established committees that evaluate earthquake forecasts and predictions made by scientists," the USGS says, per LA Weekly. "The lack of details on the method of analysis makes a critical assessment of this approach very difficult." And, as one Caltech seismologist who read the study notes, "As far as I’m concerned there has never been a successful earthquake prediction, and a scientific breakthrough would be required for us to make a scientifically based prediction." But, he adds, since earthquakes tend to cluster, it's not much of a stretch to assume there will be another one in La Habra. (Only a single survivor remains from another California earthquake.)