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california

Jump-starting earthquake insurance uptake in California

Many parts of California are at risk for large, damaging earthquakes. Yet only about one in 10 homes in the state is covered by earthquake insurance. Now, a new insurance option offers a means to supplement traditional insurance plans and provides a way for uninsured Californians to obtain at least a modicum of earthquake coverage.

08 Mar 2019

Comment: After a disaster, should you gamble on returning? Paradise edition

Not much remains of Paradise, Calif., after the fast-moving and deadly Camp Fire scorched the area in November 2018. Today, the town is essentially gone, but the inevitable question remains: Should people rebuild in locations prone to such hazards?

06 Mar 2019

Down to Earth With: Coastal scientist Gary Griggs

Maybe it was the summer camping trips with his family along the Pacific coast, or perhaps surfing off Santa Barbara, Calif., during college, but Gary Griggs always gravitated to the ocean. He turned that love into a career and has spent the last 50 years teaching about the oceans and coasts at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC).

26 Dec 2018

Forecasting California's earthquake hazard

In California, scientists use a model called the Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast (UCERF3) to assess earthquake hazards across the state based not on the physics of the state’s faults, but on history: By considering the historic record of earthquakes, including the location and severity of past quakes, UCERF3, the third version of the model, provides a hazard measure. “But those observations are limited, because we only have a few hundred years [of written earthquake records] in California,” says Greg Beroza, a seismologist at Stanford University. “In the long term, we have a small sample of the possible behavior of the system.” This means the resulting hazard assessments, relying on the relatively short historical earthquake record, may not accurately reflect earthquake potential across the state. So, scientists have long been trying to come up with physics-based models that show how particular faults might rupture without depending on historical records — and now, they have.

04 Dec 2018

Where will the San Andreas Fault rupture next?

In 1906, the San Andreas Fault Zone ruptured, and the shaking that followed brought the city of San Francisco to its knees. Buildings toppled and fires raged and, in the end, more than 3,000 people died as a result. Since then, Californians have often wondered aloud when and where the next “Big One” will strike. Geologists do not know the answers, but recent research has offered a new clue: Field mapping of the San Andreas’ southernmost reaches, near the Salton Sea, reveals a type of fault structure that researchers think may be just right for triggering a big earthquake.

08 Oct 2018

Sunny Southern California burns, missing its coastal clouds

Coastal Southern California is famous for cloudless blue skies all summer long, but it hasn’t always been that way. A new study indicates that cloud cover has decreased dramatically over the beaches between Los Angeles and San Diego since the 1970s. And that could affect fires in the region.

01 Oct 2018

Geologic Column: Tarnish on the Golden State

After World War II, California's economy and population boomed. Today, the state's economy is the fifth largest in the world, but unreasonably high living costs and numerous natural threats cloud its rosy image as the paradise by the Pacific.

22 Jun 2018

Taking the surprise out of sneaker waves

Since 2005, more than two dozen confirmed fatalities in California and Oregon have been caused by so-called sneaker waves, which surge far ashore with little warning, sometimes catching beachgoers by surprise. Most beaches in the Pacific Northwest and California have posted signs warning visitors of the hazard, but few scientific studies have been done on sneaker waves and, currently, there is no consensus on their definition or origin. 

01 Jun 2018

El Nino "flavors" affect California rainfall

Twenty years ago, the 1997–98 El Niño surpassed the 1982–83 event to become the strongest El Niño ever recorded, contributing to famine and drought in Southeast Asia, devastating floods in Southern California, and other natural disasters. By many metrics, the 2015–16 El Niño bested both to claim the title of the strongest El Niño on record. This most recent event, nicknamed the “Godzilla El Niño,” did contribute to extreme weather in parts of the world, including disastrous fires in Indonesia and the longest, global coral-bleaching event on record. However, it did not have the anticipated effect on California, which, at the time, was in the midst of a severe multi-year drought. In a recent study, researchers suggest the 2015–16 El Niño was the wrong “flavor” to bring heavy precipitation to the state.

13 May 2018

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