While no state is ruled out of the possibility of experiencing an earthquake, 42 states have a “reasonable chance” of having damaging ground shaking from an earthquake, according to recently updated information from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The agency’s research also determined that 16 states — those that have experienced a magnitude 6.0 earthquake or larger — have a “relatively high likelihood” of having a damaging quake in the future.
The updated U.S. National Seismic Hazard Maps were released July 17 to reflect current understanding of where future earthquakes will occur. The data reflected what researchers have known: The earthquake hazard is highest on the West Coast, intermountain West and in regions of the Central and Eastern U.S., including near New Madrid, Mo., and Charleston, S.C. “While these overarching conclusions of the national-level hazard are similar to those of the previous maps released in 2008, details and estimates differ for many cities and states,” reported the USGS. “Several areas have been identified as being capable of having the potential for larger and more powerful earthquakes than previously thought due to more data and updated earthquake models.”
“What we’re doing is trying to forecast future shaking based on past behavior,” said Chuck Mueller, a research geophysicist with the USGS.
Mueller, a member of the team that makes the hazard models, said two models are created, one for the Central and Eastern U.S. and another for the Western part of the country. “The things that usually change in going from the 6-year-old model to the new model is we make new earthquake catalogs, we try and characterize earthquake potential faults with new information wherever we can,” he said. “And sometimes the biggest changes just come from new estimates of the way the ground shakes as a function of distance and magnitude away from these earthquakes.”
There are two parts to the hazard models: the source, which is the catalogs and faults, and the ground motion, the estimate of the shaking that comes from an earthquake of a given size and distance.
States at Greatest Risk
The 16 states at highest risk of experiencing damaging ground breaking from an earthquake are: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
The maps are used by planners and engineers to understand potential ground shaking levels, which can aid the development of building codes and understanding the seismic risk to structures. The information also can help determine emergency preparedness plans and insurance rates.
This story was originally published by Emergency Management.