A reader pointed me to this article about a really amazing piece of government science:

A strong and deadly
earthquake is virtually certain to strike on one of California's major
seismic faults within the next 30 years, scientists said Monday in the
first official forecast of statewide earthquake probabilities.

They calculated the probability at more than 99 percent that one or
more of the major faults in the state will rupture and trigger a quake
with a magnitude of at least 6.7.

Uh, okay.  Next up:  California demonstrates more than a 99% chance that I will be dead in 100 years.  I would also give them the false precision award:

An even more damaging quake with
a magnitude of 7.5 or larger, the earthquake scientists said, is at
least 46 percent likely to hit on one of California's active fault
systems within the next three decades.

Are they really sure that its not 46.1%?

"The report's details should
prove invaluable for city planners, building code designers, and home
and business owners who can use the information to improve public
safety and mitigate damage before the next destructive earthquake
occurs," said geophysicist Ned Field of the Geological Survey, who
headed the Working Group on California Earthquake Probabilities, which
developed the forecasts.

Really?  How?  They should have given me the money and I would have written a two sentence report:  "You are going to have an earthquake in the future -- duh, its California.  Plan for it."

Update: A reader notes that this was funded by some insurance companies or trade group, and the whole point is the unspoken message "insurance rates are going up."  You guys are so cynical.


  1. Mike:

    I thought the section on "Tweaking Their Forecasts" was especially insightful...and hilarious. They spent all this money for the ability to state the incredibly obvious.

  2. Erik The Red:

    Earthquake insurance? In California?!?? Thanks, I needed the morning humor!

    In other news, I predict that within the next year it will RAIN in California and that stuff left outside will get WET. Now where's my check?

  3. Anonymous:

    That insurance companies offering quake insurance in California are trying to get a handle on their risk isn't a laughing matter.

    There are folks in Florida with uninsured homes or very expensive premiums because the insurance companies took so many hurricane losses in the last few years.

    I lost my cynical attitude about insurance companies ripping us off after a tornado came to visit at 3:20 AM. There were insurance adjusters in the neighborhood writing checks for temporary living expenses, etc. before sunset.

  4. Kyle Bennett:

    "One or more" within the next 30 years? There's been two at 6.7 or better in the last 19, so are they predicting the chances are going down? Or does "one or more" really mean "we'll have a frequency of major earthquakes in the next thirty years that will be either lower than the last 30 years, or higher, or about the same. Please plan accordingly."

  5. Larry Sheldon:

    One late October evening in 1989 I was standing around the platform at the train station in San Francisco with several thousand close friends, listening to the radio while we were waiting for our trains to depart.

    Idjit mouth on the radio was badgering a seismologist about when the Big One would hit. Seismologist eventually said that there was a fifty percent chance (what ever that turns out to mean) that there would be a magnitude 7.0 or greater earthquake in the next 10 years. On the New Madrid fault.

    Turns out that earlier that day I had agreed to take a job in Omaha.

    Hmmmmm.... [Checks date][Checks atlas] ......hmmmm...