Environment & Science

How will a major earthquake shake out in SoCal?

A member of the Federal Police's rescue team searches for survivors in Juchitan de Zaragoza, Mexico, on September 9, 2017 after a powerful earthquake struck Mexico's Pacific coast.
A member of the Federal Police's rescue team searches for survivors in Juchitan de Zaragoza, Mexico, on September 9, 2017 after a powerful earthquake struck Mexico's Pacific coast.
PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images

What will happen when the Big One hits? Earthquake scientists gathered in Palm Springs this week to discuss that exact topic.

They weren't focused on predicting future earthquakes — scientists still don't know much about that — but on all the different ways a temblor might shake out. 

Geotechnical earthquake engineer Christine Goulet says forecasting involves using historical records and earthquake modeling. 

"We're well known for using supercomputers to perform ground-motion simulations. And we've performed thousands of them. And then we go and cross-check with that data that was recorded to make sure we can explain the physics," she told KPCC.

Goulet says the data is all informing how new structures are being built in Southern California —and how old buildings might be fixed.

She is also the Executive Science Director at USC's Southern California Earthquake Center, which held the conference.