In the past few weeks, we have seen some incredible images of what Mother Nature can throw at us in a short period of time. Estimates in the billions of gallons of water were dropped on the Houston area from Hurricane Harvey, and now Hurricane Irma is heading through Florida and heading towards my hometown of Nashville. During the new coverage of these two major events, there has no shortage of public officials talking to reporters about their planning for these events and how ready they were.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) neither the USGS nor any other scientists have ever successfully predicted a major earthquake. Given the lack of a demonstrably reliable prediction capability, the USGS therefore focuses their efforts on the long-term mitigation of earthquake hazards (i.e. by helping to improve the safety of structures or promoting preparedness), rather than by trying to accomplish short-term predictive warnings. However, based on scientific data, probabilities can be calculated for potential future earthquakes. For example, scientists estimate that over the next 30 years the probability of a magnitude 7 earthquake occurring in Northern California is 76% and 75% in Southern California.