Earthquake Hazards 101 - the Basics
- What is earthquake hazard?
- What are hazard maps?
- Applications of the hazard maps / What are building codes?
- How to read a hazard map
- Why use probabilistic ground motion for hazard determination?
- How is a hazard map made? What is a hazard curve, and how is it made?
- What data are used to make hazard maps?
- Why do the hazard maps keep changing and getting updated?
- Who uses hazard maps?
- I just want to know what faults are near me - how will these maps help?
What is earthquake hazard?
Earthquake ground shaking varies from place to place and the hazard mapping in this project will show this variability. The mapped hazard refers to an estimate of the probability of exceeding a certain amount of ground shaking, or ground motion, in 50 years. The hazard depends on the magnitudes and locations of likely earthquakes, how often they occur, and the properties of the rocks and sediments that earthquake waves travel through.
What are hazard maps?
The National Hazard Maps show the distribution of earthquake shaking levels that have a certain probability of occurring in the United States. These maps were created to provide the most accurate and detailed information possible to assist engineers in designing buildings, bridges, highways, and utilities that will withstand shaking from earthquakes in the United States. These maps are used to create and update the building codes that are now used by more than 20,000 cities, counties, and local governments to help establish construction requirements necessary to preserve public safety.
Applications of the Hazard Maps:
- Building Codes (NEHRP, IBC, ASCE 7) What are building codes? (PDF - CUSEC)
- Highway bridge design nationwide (AASHTO)
- Insurance rates
- Business and land-use planning
- Estimations of stability and landslide potentials of hillsides
- Construction standards for waste-disposal facilities (EPA)
- Retrofit priorities
- Allocation planning of assistance funds for education and preparedness (FEMA)
- Concerned general public
How to read a hazard map
Suppose the map on the left is the map given:
- A 50-year time interval
- A 5% chance of exceedence
- A PGA map
We would read the shaking hazards for Nowhere City as:
The earthquake peak ground acceleration (PGA) that has a 5% chance of being exceeded in 50 years has a value between 4 and 8% g.
Why use probabilistic ground motion for hazard determination?
The goal of a hazard map is to depict the potential shaking hazard from future earthquakes. The following sequence explains why probabilistic ground motion is the best way to accomplish this goal:
- To add this missing information…
- To add this missing information…
- To add this missing information…
- To add this missing information…
How is a hazard map made? What is a hazard curve and how is it made?
How probabilistic ground motion is calculated:
Calculating the probability of a ground motion being exceededWe demonstrate how to get the probability that a ground motion is exceeded for an individual earthquake - the “probability of exceedance”.
- Show a curve of ground motion vs distance for a given magnitude, given a particular attenuation relation.
- At a given distance show distribution of ground motion.
- Intercept the distribution with a horizontal line at a given ground motion.
- The area of the distribution above the horizontal line is divided by the total area of the distribution. The result is “Probability of Exceedance” of the given ground motion given that earthquake having that magnitude experienced at that distance, given that particular attenuation relation.
Annual rate of exceedanceHow to get the expected number of exceedances in 1 year owing to that earthquake.
- Multiply the annual occurrence rate of the earthquake times the probability of exceedance of the ground motion, given that earthquake.
- Expected number of exceedances in 1 year = Annual rate of exceedance
Annual rate of exceedance, given several earthquakesExpected number of exceedances for several earthquakes. “Adding exceedances”
- The expected number of exceedances for several earthquakes is calculated by merely adding the annual rate of exceedance owing to each earthquake.
Calculating a hazard curve.A hazard curve is calculated by plotting annual rate of exceedance vs ground motion
- Perform the above calculation for 18 other ground motion levels.
- Plot the results.
- Make a smooth curve.
Now, for any ground motion we can find the annual rate of exceedance. Likewise, for any annual rate of exceedance we can find the corresponding ground motion.
Exceedance probability in Y years.(This part is mathematical)
The expected number, n of exceedances in Y years is n = Y times r, the
annual rate of exceedance. Assumption: The rate of
earthquake occurrence in time is governed by the Poisson Law.
Application: Under the Poisson Law, if you expect over
some period of time n occurrences of “something”, the
probability of 0 occurrences is
e–n. If the
“something” is exceedance of some ground motion, the
probability of getting an exceedance is 1 – P(0). So, one can work
backwards to find the annual rate of exceedance corresponding to
“the probability of exceedance is 5% in 50 years.”
1 – P(0) = 5/100 (5%) P(0) = 1 - 0.05 = 0.95 = e–n
Take the log to the base e of both sides of the last equality.
n = – ln (0.95) = 0.05129 = Yr = 50 r r = 0.05129 / 50 = 0.0010258 = 1/974.8
The last result tells us that at low exceedance probabilities (less than 10%) r is approximately PE / (100 Y). Now one can use the hazard curve to find the corresponding ground motion. The hazard maps are just the contoured version of the corresponding ground motion plotted on a geographic grid.
There are 3 types of maps:
Units for all 3 maps are %g (percent of gravity). This can also be expressed in decimal form, example 10%g = 0.1g. The ground motion values apply to ground motion expected for future individual earthquakes. The probabilistic ground motion calculation takes into account all possible future ground motions from all modeled earthquake magnitudes at all possible distances from the map site. The spatial distribution of probabilistic ground motion values is shown with contours on the map, like a topo map shows different elevations, with each color representing a different range of levels of shaking.
TIME INTERVAL (X). A time interval during which all possible earthquakes may occur is set in order to determine the shaking hazard. The time interval is typically set to 50 years. The 50-year period can be ANY 50 years, not just the NEXT 50 years; the red bar above can span any 50-year period.
% CHANCE of EXCEEDENCE (Y) The percent (%) chance that a certain amount of mapped shaking distribution will occur over the time period being considered. Typically the values of 2%, 5% and 10% are used. Keep in mind that a 5% chance of exceedence means there is a 95% chance that the shaking will NOT exceed the value.
What data are used to make hazard maps?
Three basic pieces of information are needed to produce probabilistic ground motion maps:
Model of Future Earthquakes
Using information about past historical earthquakes, Quaternary faults (prehistoric earthquakes), and present crustal deformation (geodetic data), USGS analysts make a model of the potential for future earthquakes. This model includes areal sources and fault sources. For each source the relative rate for earthquakes of different magnitudes is given, and the absolute rate for magnitudes larger than some minimum magnitude.
An attenuation relation is an equation or a table that describes how earthquake ground motion decreases as the distance to the earthquake increases. Because earthquake ground motion increases with magnitude, the attenuation relation also depends on magnitude. Strong motion data (recordings close to the earthquake) and geophysical attenuation models are used to establish the attenuation relations.
Geologic Site Condition
Earthquake ground motion waves travel rapidly in the earth’s crust and mantle. That part of the earth’s solid crust closest to the surface is called bed rock. The size of the ground motion experienced at the earth’s surface is affected by the geology of the material between bed rock and the surface. Because the earthquake waves move more slowly in this material than in rock, the size of the ground motion increases.
This material, often called alluvium or “the soil column,” increases the ground motion in such a way that “softer” soils, soils with less density, have lower seismic velocity, and hence experience larger increases in ground motion. It is necessary to know the geologic site condition in order to estimate the surface ground motion.
Maps are usually made for a common widespread site condition, and then rules are given for the user to adjust to other site conditions.
Who uses hazard maps?
Hazard maps can be used by public and private groups for land-use planning, mitigation, and emergency response. The scale of the maps does not allow them to be used in a site-specific manner (such as a house-by-house assessment), but it does show a neighborhood overview to guide where more detailed studies are needed.
Why do the hazard maps keep changing and getting updated?
The maps are updated as additional data becomes available from scientific analysis of earthquake-related data, such as:
- new fault data
- new attenuation relations
- new geodetic data
- more seismic data
I just want to know what faults are near me; how will these maps help?
Knowing where the faults are is not the most relevant information when trying to learn what your risks are of being affected by an earthquake. Since a large earthquake can affect distant locations, you can be affected by a fault tens of miles away from where you are, because of the prolonged shaking that can occur.
Nearby faults can represent a hazard from ground rupture accompanying an earthquake. Faults, both near and far, provide a source for hazard from shaking. Furthermore, in the Eastern US there are earthquakes for which the actual location or extent of faulting is poorly known. In this case, historical seismicity is the source for understanding the shaking hazard.
These maps integrate all the faulting and seismicity information into an indication of shaking hazard. The actual values of the shaking hazards depend upon the ground motion parameter of interest and degree of safety which one wants. This is why the maps are different for different ground motions and different probabilities. The ground motion hazard values can be compared with the capacity of a structure to withstand shaking, and thus give an indication of safety.