The United States Geological Survey, supported by a team of more than 50 experts, published the startling findings of the latest National Seismic Risk Model (NSHM).
Published in ‘Earthquake Spectra’, the research highlights that approximately 75% of the United States can experience damaging earthquakes. This comprehensive assessment, the first to cover all 50 states, marks a significant advance in understanding the seismic hazards facing the country.
The updated NSHM offers a detailed color-coded map pinpointing potential earthquake zones thanks to improved seismic surveys, historical geological data, and advanced data collection technologies.
Notable changes from previous models include an increased potential for damaging earthquakes along the central and northeastern Atlantic coast corridors, including major cities such as Washington, DC, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston.
In addition, greater risks have been identified in California, Alaska, and Hawaii, the latter with greater potential due to recent volcanic activity and earthquake disturbances.
Earthquakes: Implications for public safety
This study serves as an important tool for engineers, architects, and policymakers, informing how buildings and structures should be designed and constructed to minimize the effects of earthquakes.
Research highlights that 37 US states have experienced major earthquakes in the past 200 years, which highlights the pervasive nature of the danger.
While it is impossible to predict earthquakes, the model provides critical data to prepare and protect vulnerable communities against potential earthquake events.
While the study does not predict earthquakes, its insights are important in understanding and preparing for potential earthquake challenges in the future.
The most destructive earthquakes in the United States in the last 100 years
The ten deadliest earthquakes in the United States in the past 100 years vary in size and location. Among the most notable is the earthquake in Alaska on March 27, 1964, known as the Good Friday earthquake or the Great Alaska earthquake.
With a magnitude of 9.2, it was the strongest earthquake recorded in North American history and the second strongest worldwide, resulting in approximately 131 deaths, according to the World Atlas.
Another major earthquake was the Aleutian Islands earthquake on April 1, 1946, with a magnitude of 8.6, which caused 165 deaths and extensive damage.
The Cascadia earthquake of 1700, which occurred on January 26 and had an estimated magnitude between 8.7 and 9.2, affected what are now Washington, Oregon, and California, although there is not enough information to quantify the magnitude of the earthquake, the destruction, and the number of deaths.
In California, the Fort Tejon earthquakes of 1857 and the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, both of magnitude 7.9, were also significant. While the Fort Tejon earthquake resulted in only two deaths, the San Francisco earthquake caused over 3,000 deaths.
These events reflect not only their magnitude but also the human losses and material damage they cause.