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  • NASA predicted that in less than three years, a 5.0 magnitude quake will hit the L.A. area.

    NASA predicted that in less than three years, a 5.0 magnitude quake will hit the L.A. area. | Photo: Reuters

Published 22 October 2015

The U.S. Geoligical Survey refuted the prediction, saying the chances of a big earthquake in Southern California are more like 85 percent.

For decades now, Californians have been waiting on the Big One, and now, according to NASA, the chance of the Los Angeles area being hit by a major earthquake within the next 30 months is 99.9 percent, a prediction not all scientist agree with.

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NASA published a study in Earth and Space Science predicting that by April 2018, a 5.0 magnitude quake or greater will hit within a 60-mile radius of the La Habra 2014 quake's epicenter.

According to the study, there is also a 35 percent chance that the earthquake will be at least 6.0 magnitude within the same time frame.

Geophysicist for the aerospace agency, Andrea Donnellan, said, "If you think of pulling on a rubber band, you stretch it and stretch it, and if you pull on it hard enough, it's going to break."

The scientists explained that earthquakes are similar to rubber bands in the sense that they occur sooner or later. “So what we did in this study is we showed what stored potential was still in the northeast L.A. basin and northern Orange County," she added.

Donellan said residents in Los Angeles shouldn't be surprised by the prediction, because, "If you look at the statistics of earthquakes, there have been 32 earthquakes in the last 81 years above magnitude five in Los Angeles, so that's an earthquake every three years," she said.

However, the U.S. Geological Survey or USGS has questioned the study and cautioned against such predictions, arguing they only cause fear and panic among the population.

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"This paper claims a 99.9 percent probability of an earthquake of magnitude five or greater occurring in the next three years within a large area of Southern California without providing a clear description of how these numbers were derived," the USGS said.

But, the Geological survey said the chances of an earthquake within the next three years is more like 85 percent, which is still cause for concern.

Engineering seismology professor and head of Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory at Caltech, Thomas Heaton, refuted the prediction.

“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,” Heaton said.

According to ABC and Wired, over 200 small quakes were registered in the Southern California region of San Ramon.

The quakes were described as possible “foreshocks” to a greater quake by Peggy Hellweg, a seismologist at Berkeley Seismological Laboratory.

Hallweg said these small earthquakes were connected to the Calaveras fault which runs under San Ramon. This fault is connected to the Hayward fault, which according to her and other experts, is due for a big earthquake soon.

In October 2014, a joint study by researchers from the USGS and San Francisco State University warned an earthquake of magnitude 6.8 or greater would soon occur, explaining that four segments of the San Andreas fault system were due for a major quake.

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The study added that the Green Valley fault northeast of San Francisco between the cities of Napa and Fairfield was poised for a magnitude-7.1 earthquake or stronger.

They said that the various faults in the region—Calaveras, Hayward, Rodgers Creek, had built up enough tension for a magnitude 6.8 or higher.

"The information available suggests that the fault is ready for the next big earthquake but exactly when the triggering will happen and when the earthquake will occur we cannot tell ... It could be tomorrow or it could be 10 years or more from now," said author Yuri Fialko, from the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, according to RT.

In August 2014, a magnitude-6.0 earthquake hit the Californian region of Napa Valley, causing damage and injuries to 100 people.

On Oct. 17, 1989, a magnitude-6.9 quake struck the San Francisco-Oakland area, killing more than 60 people.

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