May 29, 2012

Better Warnings To Prepare For Earthquakes

Global seismic hazard maps exist to help societies and decision-makers anticipate and prepare for earthquakes. These maps are supposed to depict the maximum level of ground shaking likely to be produced by an earthquake in a given area. In the past decade, however, ground motions and death tolls in areas struck by earthquakes have far exceeded these maps' projections. Thus, scientists are calling into question the standard methods used to estimate seismic risk, and accepted assumptions and calculations have come under fire.

Seismologists use two measurements to predict the potential danger from earthquakes: Seismic hazard and seismic risk. Seismic hazard is the likelihood an earthquake will occur in a specific region over a specific period and that ground shaking will exceed a specific strength. Seismic risk takes into account the harm or losses expected to result from the seismic hazard. Although scientists have specific ways to identify seismic hazard and seismic risk worldwide, the standard methods of classification are matters of vigorous debate. How can we better prepare ourselves for massive earthquakes to prevent damage and loss of life? Read the story at

All shook up and ready to read more? Check out great stories in the June issue of EARTH Magazine, available now at Fill in the Middle Permian fossil gaps; travel to northeastern Australia's Atherton Tablelands; and find out if our arsenic supply is at risk, all in this month's issue of EARTH.


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