Predicting Earthquakes, California-style

Based on the information mentioned in Getting Through It Episode 97 – “Predicting Earthquakes, California-style”listen to related episodes, learn more about earthquake prediction, and read about the 1992 M6.1 Joshua Tree earthquake.

Episode 97 Summary

Thirty years ago, April 22, 1992, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake occurred under Joshua Tree National Park. It was also the closest we have ever gotten to a short-term earthquake prediction in California! Dr. Jones sets the scene for how this prediction was issued and what could have followed the Joshua Tree earthquake. 

“Earthquake prediction has never been just a scientific problem; it is very much a social problem as well.”


All earthquakes magnitude 2 or greater in the region of the 1992 Joshua Tree-Landers-Big Bear sequence from April 22 to July 15 are shown as gray circles. The mainshocks for each of the 3 main sequences are shown as red stars. Figure from USGS.

Related Episodes

Episode 37 – All about Aftershocks
In this episode, Dr. Jones explains how aftershocks are named, how long they can last, and what to expect when in the midst of an aftershock sequence. She reveals the story behind how she came to want to study and explain them, and how understanding aftershocks can help manage fears around earthquakes. This primer includes all the basics you need to understand aftershocks.

Episode 58 – All About Foreshocks
In this episode, Dr. Jones defines what foreshocks are, describes their variability, and explains how to manage “what comes next.” She tells the story of her first papers characterizing what foreshocks are, and what we need to know about the likelihood something bigger will follow. This primer includes all the basics you need to understand foreshocks.

Episode 9 – Debunking the Biggest Earthquake Myths
In this episode, we’re diving deep into the pool of misconceptions, myths, and legends that seek to explain what makes earthquakes so scary to humans. From the earliest records kept, humans have sought to explain “why” in order to help us feel better about the fact that we don’t know when earthquakes will strike. We take a look at time of day, weather, animals, and more to help you get through it when the earth starts to move…


Dr. Jones mentions the USGS report put together by a working group she co-chaired with Kerry E. Sieh and published in 1990, titled “Short-Term Earthquake Hazard Assessment for the San Andreas Fault in Southern California”. Read the report here.

As mentioned in the episode, the M6.1 Joshua Tree earthquake raised some alarms due to its proximity to the San Andreas fault. Read more about this earthquake here.

The M6.1 Joshua Tree earthquake was followed two months later by the M7.3 Landers earthquake, the largest earthquake to hit Southern California in 40 years. Read more about this earthquake here.

Dr. Jones carrying her son during a press conference about the 1992 M6.1 Joshua Tree earthquake. Image from NBC4 Los Angeles.


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