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Seismologist Lucy Jones Casts Doubt On JPL's 'Magnitude-5.0' Earthquake Prediction

STUDIO CITY ( — USGS seismologist Lucy Jones, who heads Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's earthquake preparedness team, wants to clear up an earthquake study making headlines Wednesday.

JPL experts announced Los Angeles has a 99.9 percent chance of experiencing a 5.0 magnitude quake in the next two and a half years, but say it very well could be stronger. JPL geophysicist Dr. Andrea Donnellan, along with seven other scientists, have been using radar and GPS to measure Southern California's chances for a sizable earthquake, and has made a sobering hypothesis about another big one.

Jones doesn't put much faith in their findings.

"Number one, a Magnitude-5.0 somewhere in a 100-kilometer radius circle around Los Angeles might not even be felt by most people," the renowned seismologist told CBS News.

The paper doesn't describe how researchers came up with the number or why they chose that time frame, Jones said.

"The claim that it's such a high probability is made in a paper by one individual group of researchers," Jones said. "The paper doesn't document how they came up with that number so it's impossible for us to even evaluate whether or not the statement has any validity, because they didn't say why."

She continued, "This isn't a NASA prediction. This is the work of one research group that has one paper. And in that paper, they give a number but they don't say how they got it."

Jones contrasted this study with reports prepared by the USGS, whose research she says is a very open process involving hundreds if not thousands of scientists.

"This analysis for one arbitrarily chosen area - and we don't know why we chose this area or why they chose the time frame - there's just no reason to change our patterns because of it," Jones said.

Jones said Southland residents should still prepare themselves for the high likelihood of an earthquake. The National Map says Southern California has a two percent chance per year of having a "great earthquake" - which designates a Magnitude-7.5 or higher.

If that scares you, Jones says you should take comfort in knowing that Southern California is far better prepared for an earthquake than it has been in the past. Garcetti signed legislation two weeks ago calling for the largest retrofitting to date of poorly-stabilized buildings. She said that will make a very big difference.

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