California has 95% chance of damaging earthquake in next century

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California has a more than 95 per cent chance or greater of enduring a damaging earthquake over the next 100 years, reveals a new US Geological Survey (USGS) map. While California is particularly at risk, nearly 75 per cent of the US could experience potentially damaging earthquakes and intense ground shaking, threatening the lives of hundreds of millions of people in the next century, Xinhua news agency reported citing the map.

The agency led a team of more than 50 scientists and engineers working on the latest USGS National Seismic Hazard Model. The model created a color-coded map showing where damaging earthquakes are most likely to occur in the country based on insights from seismic studies, historical geologic data and the latest data-collection technologies.

The new model suggested California and Alaska, both having a history of seismic events, might face a greater degree of shaking. On the East Coast, major cities such as Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Boston might experience more severe earthquakes than previously thought.

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The study revealed that 37 US states have experienced earthquakes exceeding magnitude 5 during the last 200 years, highlighting a long history of seismic activity across this country. The model represented the first assessment of seismic hazards for the entire country and an update to the previous version in 2018.

“The update includes more faults, better-characterized land surfaces, and computational advancements in modeling that provide the most detailed view ever of the earthquake risks we face,” said Mark Petersen, USGS geophysicist and lead author of the study, in a press release.

He called the new model “a touchstone achievement for enhancing public safety”, as the updated model will inform the future of building and structural design, offering critical insights for architects, engineers and policymakers on how structures are planned and constructed across the country.

Though earthquakes are challenging to forecast, by investigating faults and past quakes, scientists can better assess the likelihood of future earthquakes and how intense their shaking might be, according to the USGS.