Study Suggests Ridgecrest Earthquake Increased Odds of the 'Big One'

6.4 Magnitude Earthquake Rattles Southern California

If you've been worried 2020 hasn't thrown enough at us to deal with, good news! A new study published this week in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America found that last year's series of earthquakes near Ridgecrest may have increased the chances of a large 7.5 magnitude quake or greater along the San Andreas fault over the next 12 months.

According to the study, researchers found there is a 2.3% chance of a 7.5 magnitude or greater quake along the 160-mile long Garlock fault, located on the northern edge of the Mojave Desert. If that happened, there's a 1.15% of a large earthquake on the San Andreas fault over the next year.

While those numbers appear to show that the odds of a quake actually happening are low, they actually represent a near tripling of the odds of a large quake on the San Andreas, Ross Stein told the Los Angeles Times.

“Now, you can think of the Ridgecrest earthquake as being so far from Greater Los Angeles ... that it is nearly harmless,'' Stein said.

“But the problem is that ... the Ridgecrest earthquake brought the Garlock fault closer to rupture. If that fault ruptures -- and it gets within about 25 miles of the San Andreas -- then there's a high likelihood, maybe a 50/50 shot, that it would immediately rupture on the San Andreas.''

Experts say a hypothetical 7.8 magnitude earthquake could cause more than 1,800 deaths, injure thousands more, and displace up to 1 million people from their homes. The region would be crippled economically for several years afterward, according to the report. A quake that size would produce about 45 times the energy of the 1994 Northridge quake.

Last year's series of quakes "“produced significant stress perturbations on nearby fault networks, especially along the Garlock fault segment immediately southwest of the 2019 Ridgecrest rupture,'' according to that brief summary.

Researchers wanted to know whether the stress produced by the quakes may have begun a chain of events that could result in a widespread devastation along the San Andreas fault not seen since 1857.

Following the quakes last year in Ridgecrest, the U.S.G.S. said there was an extremely remote chance the San Andreas might be triggered by the shaking.

Photo: Getty Images

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