On Tuesday we heard about a pretty scary sounding study from NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab that predicted a magnitude 5.0 earthquake would the Los Angeles area before the end of 2019. The study went so far as to put a 99.9 percent certainty on the event, with a 35 percent certainty that the earthquake would be a 6.1 or greater. But a battle of the earth scientists is brewing! The head of Mayor Eric Garcetti's earthquake preparedness team, seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones, is doubtful of the study's findings, reports CBS LA. According to Jones, a 5.0 earthquake hitting within 100 kilometers of LA might even go unnoticed by the average person, and that's if it happens at all.
The "Earthquake Lady," as Dr. Jones is known to her peers, sees a lot wrong with the conclusions of the JPL study, the methods, and even the researchers' credentials. She says the claims made in the study are by just "one individual group of researchers," and adds that while the paper came from JPL, it is not an actual NASA prediction. As a seismologist for the US Geological Survey, Jones is accustomed to studies like this one passing through the scrutiny of hundreds of reputable scientists before being considered valid.
"This is the work of one research group that has one paper," she told CBS, "and in that paper they give a number, but they don't say how they got it." Jones was also skeptical of the timeframe discussed (why 2019?) and the at-risk locations noted in the study, saying the report was an analysis on "one arbitrarily chosen area." (It focused on the areas around the Whittier and Puente Hills Faults.)
This is all coming from a woman whose whole job it is to map out horrific doomsday earthquake scenarios. She's been advising California on its earthquake preparedness since 1985 and served last year as LA's earthquake czar, working with the city to create a report on its earthquake preparedness. For 12 months, she examined how LA's buildings, water supply, and communication systems would hold up in the event of the Big One. In that advisory role, she predicted cataclysmic water shortages, power outages, and other bleak scenarios, and she's long warned against earthquake denialism. For Jones to seem unconcerned about the JPL prediction speaks volumes.
There is of course a chance of a major earthquake happening in Southern California—Jones puts the odds of a magnitude 7.5 or higher in the entire region at a two percent chance per year.
· Seismologist Lucy Jones Casts Doubt On JPL's 'Magnitude-5.0' Earthquake Prediction
· JPL is 99.9 Percent Sure Los Angeles Will Get a Big Earthquake in the Next Two and a Half Years [Curbed LA]