Predicting the next big earthquake in California

The latest earthquakes to strike California have stirred up fears that monster quake could be coming.

A 5.1 magnitude quake rattled the Los Angeles area Friday. It was followed by several aftershocks and another 4.1 quake on Saturday.

So can seismologists predict if or when a “big one” will hit the area?

Friday’s earthquake was one of the strongest in California since the devastating 1994 Northridge quake, 20 years ago. That quake registered 6.7 on the richter scale, killing more than 50 people and causing an estimated $42 billion dollars in damage.

CNN meteorologist Alexandra Steele says the chance for a catastrophe like Northridge exists anywhere a fault line is present

Steele: “Our planet’s seemingly stable surface is actually constantly moving and it’s composed of enormous rock that slowly moving underneath our feet. And when they rub and touch and crash against each other or crack then there this massive release of energy and that’s an earthquake.

Reporter: “But we still can’t predict the big one, right? The Big One is unpredictable?”

Steele: “Unpredictable. Ya know, in the last 100 years we can detect them, we know their origin, their magnitude, but one thing yet we don’t know is when they will happen.”

And while scientists still can’t predict the big one, that hasn’t stopped some from imagining the doomsday scenario.

The USGS said recently California has a 46 percent chance of a magnitude 7.5 or larger in the next thirty years – and that it would likely hit Southern California?

And a recent virtual earthquakes study by Stanford University tried to envision what would happen if the big one did hit.

Beroza: “The waves travel through that corridor through Los Angeles and are essentially guided into the sedimentary basin that underlies Los Angeles. Once they’re in that basin, they reverberate, they get amplified and they cause stronger shaking than what would otherwise occur.

A scale of disaster that hopefully won’t become a reality anytime soon.

(Copyright 2014 KTSF. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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