Earthquake News

Unveiling the Landscape: A Closer Look at the USGS National Seismic Hazard Model

In a recent revelation by a U.S. Geological Survey-led team of over 50 scientists and engineers, it was disclosed that nearly 75 percent of the U.S. is susceptible to damaging earthquake shaking. This revelation stems from the latest USGS National Seismic Hazard Model (NSHM), a comprehensive assessment utilizing seismic studies, historical geologic data, and cutting-edge data-collection technologies.

"National Seismic Hazard Model (2023) - Chance of Damaging Earthquake Shaking:
This map displays the likelihood of damaging earthquake shaking in the United States over the next 100 years." -USGS

Mapping Vulnerabilities

The NSHM has given rise to a color-coded map pinpointing areas where damaging earthquakes are most likely to occur. This tool, born out of a congressionally requested update, serves as a crucial resource for engineers and other stakeholders to understand and mitigate the impact of earthquakes on vulnerable communities.

Evolving Landscape of Earthquake Research

A notable outcome of this update is the identification of nearly 500 additional faults that could potentially produce damaging quakes. This underscores the evolving landscape of earthquake research and highlights the collaborative effort between federal, state, and local governments, as well as the private sector.

Mark Petersen, USGS geophysicist and lead author of the study, emphasized the significance of this endeavor, stating, "The new seismic hazard model represents a touchstone achievement for enhancing public safety."

Insights from the Updated Model

The latest iteration, the first 50-state comprehensive assessment, reveals noteworthy changes. There is an increased possibility of more damaging earthquakes along the central and northeastern Atlantic Coastal corridor, impacting cities such as Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. Additionally, heightened seismic activity is anticipated in California and Alaska. The model also identifies Hawai‘i as having greater potential for shaking due to recent volcanic eruptions and seismic unrest.

Key Findings and Implications

1. Risk to People

Nearly 75% of the U.S. could experience potentially damaging earthquakes and intense ground shaking, posing risks to hundreds of millions of people.

2. Widespread Hazard

37 U.S. states have a history of earthquakes exceeding magnitude 5 in the last 200 years, emphasizing the long-standing seismic activity across the country.

3. Structural Implications

The updated model will shape the future of building and structural design, providing critical insights for architects, engineers, and policymakers across the U.S.

4. Unified Approach

This marks the first National Seismic Hazard Model to encompass all 50 states simultaneously, reflecting a massive collaborative effort with federal, state, and local partners.

Not a Prediction, But Informed Assessment

While earthquakes remain unpredictable, the updated model serves as an informed assessment. By delving into faults and past quakes, scientists can better assess the likelihood of future earthquakes and anticipate the intensity of their shaking.

As we navigate the seismic landscape, understanding these insights becomes crucial for our community's preparedness and resilience.

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