Study: 99 percent probability of Los Angeles-area quake

NASA Predicts Sizable Earthquake Will Hit Los Angeles


LOS ANGELES (AP) — There is a 99.9 percent chance of a magnitude-5 or greater earthquake striking within three years in the greater Los Angeles area, where a similar sized temblor caused more the $12 million in damage last year, according to a study by NASA and university researchers.

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The study released Tuesday was based on Global Positioning System and airborne radar measurements of how the Earth's crust was deformed by the magnitude-5.1 quake on March 28, 2014, in La Habra, about 20 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. Damage included broken water mains and cracked pavement.

By comparison, in 1994 the magnitude-6.7 Northridge earthquake left $25 billion in damage, caused dozens of deaths and injured 9,000 people.

See images of California's "Shakeout" earthquake drill:

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2015 ShakeOut Earthquake Drill
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Study: 99 percent probability of Los Angeles-area quake
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 15: USC Cinema students take cover under their desks during an earthquake drill on October 15, 2015 in Los Angeles California. Students joined 21.5 million people worldwide who took part in safety drills and aftermath and recovery exercises in observance of the eighth annual Great ShakeOut. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 15: USC Cinema students take cover under their desks during an earthquake drill on October 15, 2015 in Los Angeles California. Students joined 21.5 million people worldwide who took part in safety drills and aftermath and recovery exercises in observance of the eighth annual Great ShakeOut. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
From New Zealand, to the West Coast @USC, and to @CraigatFEMA in DC, over 22 million joined in #ShakeOut today! http://t.co/R7sSX5ssHc
Joined students at Yick Wo Elementary for #ShakeOut earthquake drill. Get prepared! http://t.co/SuGXzgwkHP @SF72org http://t.co/wXNsjjZlp3
A big thank you to everyone who participated in the worlds largest earthquake drill today! #ShakeOut 👏👏 http://t.co/J9enaN9IFg
Did you participate in the #ShakeOut? Drop, cover and hold on during earthquakes to protect yourself and family! http://t.co/fSKPyEjgVz
#ShakeOut We're prepared to assist engineers from @LAPublicWorks with rapid aerial inspections of dams and bridges http://t.co/8H3O7oiQpX
Drop! Cover! Hold on! Be part of ShakeOut today and practice earthquake preparedness. http://t.co/VGEEc9Y3S6 http://t.co/JrZ4w9Fw2k
VCOE employees take part in the Great California #ShakeOut earthquake drill. http://t.co/VQrFCnepXb
A big thank you to everyone who participated in the worlds largest earthquake drill today! #ShakeOut 👏👏 http://t.co/J9enaN9IFg
From New Zealand, to the West Coast @USC, and to @CraigatFEMA in DC, over 22 million joined in #ShakeOut today! http://t.co/R7sSX5ssHc
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The study looked at a 62-mile radius around the La Habra epicenter. Researchers observed shallow movements of the ground, took into account a deficit in the number of earthquakes expected there and calculated how much strain may remain in deeper faults that are still locked.

While the magnitude-5 quake was found to be extremely likely by April 1, 2018, one of magnitude-6 or higher was pegged at just 35 percent and the largest potential quake was estimated at 6.3.

Study leader Andrea Donnellan, a geophysicist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said the research is not a prediction. "It's a statistical probability that we computed," she said in an interview.

The U.S. Geological Survey took issue with the study, asserting that it was unclear how the study derived its numbers and that the accepted probability is 85 percent.

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Responding to the criticism, Donnellan said the study's references to other scientific papers would allow other researchers to reconstruct the process.

According to the most recent Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast, which was published in March and is the basis for the agency's National Seismic Hazard Maps, the Southern California region has a 100 percent chance of one or more magnitude-5 or larger quakes and a 93 percent chance of a 6.7 jolt during the next 30 years.

Thousands of older wood and concrete apartment buildings vulnerable to collapse in a major earthquake would get costly upgrades under sweeping retrofitting rules passed this month by the Los Angeles City Council.

Also participating in the NASA-led study were researchers from the University of California, Irvine; Indiana University, Bloomington; UC Davis; and the University of Nevada, Reno.



RELATED: See the 10 deadliest earthquakes in U.S. history:
16 PHOTOS
The deadliest earthquakes in US history
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Study: 99 percent probability of Los Angeles-area quake
Damaged Kaiser Medical Building in the Northridge Reseda area of Los Angeles after 1994 earthquake (Photo by Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images)
A car at a Mazda dealership crushed in the Los Angeles earthquake of January 17, 1994 (Photo by Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images)

1886 Charleston Earthquake 

(Photo: hdes.copeland/Flickr)

1886 Charleston Earthquake 

(Photo: hdes.copeland/Flickr)

1886 Charleston Earthquake 

(Photo: hdes.copeland/Flickr)

April 1960: Valdivia, Chile

(Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

picture taken in April 1960 in Valdivia of people looking at an enormous crack on a street due to the earthquake that struck the area on May 22, 1960. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STF/AFP/Getty Images)

October 18, 1989: San Francisco, California

(Photo by Rich Pilling/Getty Images)

August 24, 2014: Napa, California

(Photo credit Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

March 10, 1933: Long Beach, California

(Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)

Damaged building exterior, damage caused by the 1933 earthquake, Long Beach, California, March 12, 1933. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)
Part of a long line of homeless earthquake victims as they wait for food rations at a relief tent set up after a series of devastating quakes, Long Beach, California, March 13, 1933. The powerful quakes began March 11 and killed 115 people and did $75,000,000 in damage. Signs on the tent read 'Free Food' and 'Food Administer.' (Photo by FPG/Getty Images)

April 6, 1946: Aleutian Islands

(Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

April 9, 1946: Hilo, Hawaii 

Homeless people are taken to emergency accommodation on US Army trucks, 9th April 1946, after a Pacific-wide tsunami hit Hilo, Hawaii. The tidal wave, on 1st April, was caused by an earthquake near the Aleutian Islands. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

1906: Full-length view of pedestrians examining frame houses, which lean to one side on the verge of collapse after the Great Earthquake in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
1906: View of a cobblestone street, which was split down the middle after the Great Earthquake in San Francisco, California. A wooden cart has fallen into the crack. (Photo by American Stock/Getty Images)
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