Newsletter: Unprecedented insight into how earthquakes start, via new research

A customer rummages through the rubble at the severely damaged Shell food mart in Trona, Calif., less than a day after the Ridgecrest earthquake in July.
A customer rummages through the rubble at the severely damaged Shell food mart in Trona, Calif., less than a day after the Ridgecrest earthquake in July.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Aug. 21, and I’m writing from Lodi.

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It is almost surprising, given the near infinite amount of things that you can bet on online in 2019, that no bookmakers appear to be offering odds on when the next big earthquake in California will occur.

Perhaps society isn’t as far gone as one might fear, if we’ve yet to offer up that particular brand of opportunistic ugliness. (There are, however, plenty of options to bet on the San Jose Earthquakes, a Bay Area Major League Soccer team. It should also be noted that sports betting remains illegal in California.)


But bookies aside, the odds of not if but when are a mental calculation all Californians constantly make as they build their lives in this seismically active state. For researchers, the ability to reliably predict the next major quake remains the “Holy Grail of earthquake science.”

Unfortunately, we are no closer to predicting the exact timing and epicenters of big earthquakes. But there is new research that provides unprecedented insights into how seismology works, as my colleague earthquake reporter extraordinaire Rong-Gong Lin II detailed in a story published Tuesday.

“One of the biggest questions in earthquake seismology is how earthquakes get started,” as seismologist Daniel Trugman, the lead author on a new study, told Lin.

Trugman’s research reveals that the vast majority of earthquakes we feel come soon after smaller ones, with even moderate quakes likely to occur after a series of less-powerful ones. The results of the study suggest, as Lin writes, “that it’s possible that all moderate and large quakes are preceded by something smaller, but getting to that conclusion would require more studies.”

[Read the story: “Scientists finally know how big earthquakes start: With many smaller ones” in the Los Angeles Times]

See also: Further earthquake reading from The Times

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:



While he was illegally lobbying, this former L.A. official was also getting paid by City Hall. Los Angeles’ planning department was paying its former top executive more than $18,000 a month in consulting fees during the period when he was illegally lobbying managers in that same agency on behalf of real estate developers, documents show. Los Angeles Times

At least two of the three jurors dismissed from the Ghost Ship criminal trial on Monday could potentially face contempt proceedings. The judge presiding over the high-profile case raised the specter of contempt findings on Tuesday. She also indicated that the jurors’ misconduct involved material or communications outside the scope of deliberations. San Francisco Chronicle


Fear and loathing at Erewhon, the high-margin health food market that will soon open two locations in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Magazine


Expo Line riders, rejoice! Expo service will resume at the downtown Pico and 7th St/Metro Center stations on Saturday, after several months of construction. NBC 4

For the 80 formerly homeless families living in a San Fernando Valley motel, back to school day started with a backpack giveaway and a special breakfast. Los Angeles Daily News

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California county fair employees used their employer’s credit cards to spend tens of thousands of dollars on unauthorized travel, lavish meals and alcohol. (A receipt from one dinner “showed the association credit card paying $400 for five butcher’s cuts, $125 for a lobster surf dinner, $95 for a lobster tail and more than $600 in alcohol, including one $96 bottle of wine.”) Sacramento Bee



He was paid to keep kids out of gangs. Now, he’s charged in grisly MS-13 killings. Los Angeles Times

Media advocates sued the San Francisco Police Department and Mayor London Breed seeking an explanation for the illegal raids on the home and office of freelance journalist Bryan Carmody. San Francisco Chronicle


Insurers dropped nearly 350,000 California homeowners with wildfire risk over the past four years. Sacramento Bee

Officials have started cleanup at the American River Trail after a two-year wait. Sacramento Bee



Eighty-nine-year-old civil rights leader Dolores Huerta was handcuffed while protesting for worker raises in Fresno. Fresno Bee

Palm Springs may soon get a hockey team, and the owners of the proposed American Hockey League team have been filing multiple trademarks for possible names. The Desert Sun

This Bay Area high school has started locking up student phones during the day in Yondr pouches (like the kind you see at concerts or comedy shows). Mercury News

San Francisco International Airport’s plastic water bottle ban drew mixed reactions on its first day. (Plus, here’s everything SFO-goers need to know about said ban.) San Francisco Chronicle

It’s not too late to book a last-minute trip for Labor Day in or near California. Los Angeles Times

But get to the airport early, because airlines expect record crowds to fly over the holiday. Los Angeles Times


From the annals of “Only in California”: A woman led Mendocino County Sheriff’s deputies on a brief chase, hit a utility pole and then did a series of yoga poses in the road after exiting her vehicle. Willits News


Los Angeles: sunny, 84. San Diego: partly sunny, 77. San Francisco: windy, 73. San Jose: partly sunny, 84. Sacramento: sunny, 95. More weather is here.


“Eastward I go only by force; but westward I go free.”

— -Henry David Thoreau

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)


Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.