SDSU Geology Professor Questions Earthquake Advisory

In this case, Abbott says the increased probability was not significant enough to warrant an advisory

After a swarm of small quakes recently hit the Salton Sea area, seismologists warned last week that a magnitude seven earthquake could hit by Tuesday.

San Diego State University geology professor Pat Abbott says the prediction is based on statistics, looking at patterns from past records of earthquakes, but in this case, he believes the increased probability was not significant enough to put out an advisory.

“Every Californian knows when you wake up every day there may be a big earthquake,” he says.

The big question is when.

Scientists don't really know, but after more than 150 small earthquakes near the Salton Sea earlier this week, the California Office of Emergency Management asked for a review from the state Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council.

The group of experts reported concerns that the quakes could trigger a larger earthquake on the San Andreas Fault, showing an increased probability to between .03 percent and 1 percent of the earthquake hitting by this Tuesday.

“First off, this is not based on science,” Abbott tells NBC 7. “Scientifically we have zero ability to predict earthquakes … An advisory or warning to make people get a little more tense or extra prepared? That's what I would call kind of a betrayal of public trust,” he says.

Still, it is a reminder to always be prepared for an earthquake because we really don't know.

“We know what's going to occur, where it's going to occur. We can’t tell you the when, but what’s the thing the public wants the most? The when,” Abbott says.

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