California has 95% chance of damaging earthquake in next century, USGS map shows

Nearly all of California has a more than 95% chance of a damaging earthquake in the next century, according to a new United States Geological Survey map.

The new USGS National Seismic Hazard Model released Tuesday shows where damaging earthquakes are most likely to occur in the United States and updates a previous version released in 2018.

“This was a massive, multi-year collaborative effort between federal, state and local governments and the private sector,” said Mark Petersen, USGS geophysicist and lead author of the study. “The new seismic hazard model represents a touchstone achievement for enhancing public safety.”

Here are some of the key takeaways from the map, according to the USGS:

  • Risk to people: Nearly 75% of the U.S. could experience potentially damaging earthquakes and intense ground shaking, putting hundreds of millions of people at risk.
  • Widespread hazard: 37 U.S. states have experienced earthquakes exceeding magnitude 5 during the last 200 years, highlighting a long history of seismic activity across this country.
  • Structural implications: 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 U.S.
  • Unified approach: This marks the first National Seismic Hazard Model to encompass all 50 states simultaneously, reflecting a massive collaborative effort with federal, state, and local partners.
  • Not a prediction: No one can predict earthquakes. However, by investigating faults and past quakes, scientists can better assess the likelihood of future earthquakes and how intense their shaking might be.

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