Skip to main content

Seismologist Says California Is Waiting For Its Next ‘Big One’

Seismologist Says California Is Waiting For Its Next 'Big One'


Lucy Jones, author, "The Big Ones"


Photo credit: Penguin Random House

The book cover for "The Big Ones" by Lucy Jones.

Former U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Lucy Jones was the go-to person in Los Angeles for information about earthquakes for more than a generation. In 2014, she became L.A.’s first city seismologist and risk adviser.

Now retired, Jones has written a book about how people and communities have handled natural disasters through the centuries, reaching as far back as Mount Vesuvius’ destruction of Pompeii nearly 2,000 years ago. The book is called "The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do About Them)."

Despite Jones’ strong connection to California, the only local disaster she wrote about is the Great Flood of 1862, which killed one percent of the state’s population and destroyed one-third of its taxable land.

“A ‘Big One’ really is about what happens to the human population. We’ve had huge earthquakes that had relatively small social impact because they occurred under the water,” she said. “Most of us will live through the big earthquake, almost all of us. The question is whether our societies do. And so I ended up looking at events that really changed the nature of their society.”

Jones joins KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday to discuss how those societies rebuilt after natural disasters and how California is preparing for its own “Big One.”

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.