Exciting news! We're transitioning to the Statewide California Earthquake Center. Our new website is under construction, but we'll continue using this website for SCEC business in the meantime. We're also archiving the Southern Center site to preserve its rich history. A new and improved platform is coming soon!

Intermediate- and Long-Term Earthquake Prediction

Lynn Sykes

Published April 30, 1996, SCEC Contribution #319

Progress in long- and intermediate-term earthquake prediction is reviewed emphasizing results from California. Earthquake prediction as a scientific discipline is still in its infancy. Probabilistic estimates that segments of several faults in California will be the sites of large shocks in the next 30 years are now generally accepted and widely used. Several examples are presented of changes in rates of moderate-size earthquakes and seismic moment release on time scales of a few to 30 years that occurred prior to large shocks. A distinction is made between large earthquakes that rupture the entire downdip width of the outer brittle part of the earth's crust and small shocks that do not. Large events occur quasi-periodically in time along a fault segment and happen much more often than predicted from the rates of small shocks along that segment. I am moderately optimistic about improving predictions of large events for time scales of a few to 30 years although little work of that type is currently underway in the United States. Precursory effects, like the changes in stress they reflect, should be examined from a tensorial rather than a scalar perspective. A broad pattern of increased numbers of moderate-size shocks in southern California since 1986 resembles the pattern in the 25 years before the great 1906 earthquake. Since it may be a long-term precursor to a great event on the southern San Andreas fault, that area deserves detailed intensified study.

Sykes, L. (1996). Intermediate- and Long-Term Earthquake Prediction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 93(9), 3732-3739.