Earthquake bummer

I’m traveling to L.A. soon, so naturally the L.A. Times tells me I’m gonna die:

Southern California is long overdue for a major earthquake along the San Andreas fault, according to a landmark study of historic seismic activity released Friday.

The study, produced after several years of field studies in the Carrizo Plain area about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, found that earthquakes along the San Andreas fault have occurred far more often than previously believed.

Apparently, the last time someone studied earthquake frequency in the Carrizo Plain, they were using tape measures and listening to Earth, Wind and Fire on the AM transistor radio. And they figured a monster quake happened there every 250 to 450 years. Modern techniques tell us there were more earthquakes than previously known: 1417, 1462, 1565, 1614, 1713, and 1857. (Mean time between quakes: 88 years. Standard deviation: 41.4 years)

That last one was 143 years ago, or 1½ standard deviations above the mean. <wonk> Assuming a T-distribution, that’s about the 90th percentile. </wonk> In other words, we are overdue.

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