Local Researchers Create Largest Quake Simulation

Simulation Is Collaboration Between UCSD And SDSU

Many seismologists agree that another big earthquake will hit Southern California in the near future, and a new computer simulation is now providing information to help figure out how far and how strong the earth will shake.

The simulation shows what will happen when a "big one" -- a magnitude-8.0 -- strikes the southern San Andreas Fault in the town of Parkfield, 317 miles north of San Diego.

"Waves will propagate down the fault about 6,000 mph," said Dr. Thomas Jordan, University of Southern California professor and director of the Southern California Earthquake Center.

Jordan revealed the first-of-a-kind simulation to a group of researchers at the University of California, San Diego's Supercomputer Center on Monday.

The simulation's flaming red and orange waves show which cities will be impacted by a large quake and when.

"They hit Los Angeles about one minute after. Then, the first waves hit San Diego two minutes after the quake begins," said Jordan.

The shaking will be more powerful, the simulation shows, more damaging and longer-lasting than what San Diegans experienced during Mexico's Easter Sunday Quake.

However, Jordan said it would not be as damaging as what Los Angeles and San Bernardino will experience. The quake's energy builds up closer to the fault line, making these cities more vulnerable to the strongest waves for a longer period of time.

The simulation is a scientific breakthrough in super computing. It is the largest, most detailed simulation in the world and it was developed at UCSD's Supercomputer Center. It's the result of a six-year collaboration among researchers at UCSD and San Diego State University.

The simulation provides a worst-case scenario that Jordan said is highly unlikely. Instead of the entire southern San Andreas rupturing in one event, he predicted, "We're not just going to have one big one. We're probably going to have a series of big ones; probably a seismic storm in Southern California."

Jordan said a simulation of this size and detail could help emergency response teams better cope with what could be multiple disasters.

Jordan cautions about relying on just one simulation on one fault. He said more needs to be done to study what will happen if a quake strikes other faults.