Chapter B. Forecasts. The Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake of October 17, 1989

Ruth A. Harris

Published 1998, SCEC Contribution #837

The magnitude (Mw) 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay region of central California at 5:04 p.m. P.d.t. on October 17, 1989, killing 62 people and generating billions of dollars in property damage. Scientists were not surprised by the occurrence of a destructive earthquake in this region and had, in fact, been attempting to forecast the location of the next large earthquake in the San Francisco Bay region for decades. This paper summarizes more than 20 scientifically based forecasts made before the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake for a large earthquake that might occur in the Loma Prieta area. The forecasts geographically closest to the actual earthquake primarily consisted of right-lateral strike-slip motion on the San Andreas Fault northwest of San Juan Bautista. Several of the forecasts did encompass the magnitude of the actual earthquake, and at least one approximately encompassed the along-strike rupture length. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake differed from most of the forecasted events in two ways: (1) it occurred with considerable dip-slip in addition to strike-slip motion, and (2) it was much deeper than expected.

Key Words
United States, damage, magnitude, California, San Francisco Bay, seismicity, earthquake prediction, epicenters, earthquakes, faults, Loma Prieta earthquake 1989, Santa Cruz County California, Loma Prieta Mountain

Harris, R. A. (1998). Chapter B. Forecasts. The Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake of October 17, 1989. In Harris, R. A. (Eds.), USGS Professional Paper 1550-B, (, pp. B1-B28) , :