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When “the Big One” Comes

Kim Olsen has created a computer-generated model of an 8.0 earthquake in southern California.
earthquake simulation
earthquake simulation
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See the complete fall 2012 issue of 360 Magazine

It’s enough to make you shudder. Seismologists predict there is a 99 percent probability that California will experience an earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale during the next 30 years. An even larger quake—of 7.0 magnitude—is 94 percent certain.

But even those mighty temblors would pale next to “the big one,” the moniker for a magnitude 8.0 or greater quake on the San Andreas Fault.

SDSU professor and seismologist Kim Olsen has created a computer-generated model of this monster quake in order to project its capacity for destruction. 

On the next episode of “SDSU Insider,” airing Sept. 22 at 12:30 p.m. on KPBS, Olsen unveils the simulation, which shows strong shaking in the San Bernardino, Ventura and Los Angeles basins. The strongest ground movements persist for about one minute in Los Angeles, but begin to subside as the waves move toward San Diego.  

“San Diego is actually located in a fairly fortunate position for such an earthquake (on the San Andreas Fault),” Olsen said. “The visualization shows relatively minor, roller-coaster-like shaking that would mostly be felt in the high rises downtown.”

Read more about the latest SDSU Insider, which also features stories on Aztec sculptor Jess Dominguez and cutting-edge SDSU research to reverse the damage caused by heart attacks.

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