There are more than 143 million Americans living in the 48 contiguous states exposed to potentially damaging ground-shaking from earthquakes, the USGS announced on Monday. The ten states with the highest populations exposed to these probable earthquakes are California, Washington, Utah, Tennessee, Oregon, South Carolina, Nevada, Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois.
What is potentially damaging earthquake
A new study released by USGS and published by journal Earthquake Spectra define potentially damaging shaking earthquake as a level that could at least lead to damage in structures. This is especially a cause for concern since there about 143 million Americans who are currently living and working in high structure erected in vulnerable areas.
Fifty-seven million of the 143 million people are in areas with a moderate chance of shaking while 28 million live in areas with high potential to experience damaging shaking, the USGS said.
According to the USGS scientists who penned the study, the new exposure estimate is nearly double the previous estimates they have had in 2006. Back then, there were only 75 million Americans in 39 states who are estimated to be living in vulnerable states.
“Populations have grown significantly in areas prone to earthquakes, and USGS scientists have improved data and methodologies that allow for more accurate estimates of earthquake hazards and ground shaking,” William Leith said. Leith is USGS senior science advisor for earthquake and geologic hazards and a co-author of the study.
“Of particular concern is the significant amount of critical infrastructure located in high earthquake-hazard areas, ranging from private and public schools to health care facilities and fire stations. The USGS is dedicated to continuously updating research on population and infrastructure exposure as communities change and new science is available on earthquake behavior,” Kishor Jaiswal explained further. Jaiswal is a USGS research structural engineer and the lead author of the study.