According to this article in EarthSky earlier this week, the USGS has released recently an updated report on the likelihood of earthquakes. The map above shows the major fault lines in California and the high risk ares are keyed in red (Source: USGS via EarthSky) This report raises the likelihood of big earthquakes on magnitude 8+ in high risk areas but lowers the risk of smaller earthquakes like the 6.7 Northridge quake in other areas.
In other news from the USGS, reported elsewhere, they are predicting bigger earthquakes in the I-35 area of Texas and Oklahoma, which I have covered in prior posts. These predictions have been made before by the USGS.
Recently, reporters who are not scientists themselves have been asking Republican candidates “whether they believe in science.” The candidates have been punting the questions unnecessarily in my opinion. Science, as Glenn Reynolds notes, is based on data not models. Not on projections and probabilities, I would add. A good reply would be to turn the question around on the questioner: Do you believe in horse racing?
It is not the scientist’s fault, because we expect them to be informed and knowledgeable. Then we ask them based on their knowledge to predict the future. As such, we ask scientists to provide us information similar to what horse racing fans expect from the Daily Racing Form. Scientific predictions may not involve bets and money but it is akin to wagering. The problem is that the wagering part is not science, it’s gambling. Of course it would be foolish to dismiss completely attempts to discover whether or not major earthquakes are likely to occur. The risks of not doing so are substantial. But scrutiny and skepticism are a much more important part of science than advocacy.