United States Earthquake Hazard Areas

Introduction:The United States Geological Survey has National Seismic Hazard Maps that monitors and displays earthquake ground motions for different probability levels across the United States. These hazard maps are used to determine building codes, insurance rate structures and other public policies.

Seismologists study and believe that the most probable area for an earthquake is the Pacific Ocean Rim otherwise called "The Ring of Fire." A major portion of the world's earthquakes center around this Pacific belt, yet experts also say that an earthquake could happen anywhere at anytime.

Earthquake predictions are the hope of the future, but there are over 1000 earthquakes a day in the earth somewhere, and knowing which one could be the "big one" is a problem as most are too small to pinpoint.

Research is being done to improve the technology and goals are to be able to warn people of the pending disaster, just as the Weather Bureau alerts people of approaching tornadoes, hurricanes and severe storms.

These are the top five American areas determined as higher earthquake hazard zones in the next 50 years. This was determined by ground shaking, faults, seismology and geodesy.

  • 01

    Alaska

    The USGS makes no absolute claims of an earthquake in Alaska or any other area, but give probability statistics only. Updates may change any of this information.

    Alaska has a higher percentage of having an earthquake due to its Pacific Ring of Fire location, along with ground motions and seismic readings calculated since 2007.

  • 02

    Hawaii

    Thousands of earthquakes occur each year in Hawaii and most go unnoticed. The volcanic activity is closely related to earthquakes and vice versa. Eruptions and movement within the volcanoes usually come with small earthquakes.

    There have been several larger "tectonic" quakes in Hawaii that stem from deep within the earth's crust and weaknesses at the base of the volcanoes. Hawaii has a had several 6-8 magnitude earthquakes in the past 150 years.

  • 03

    Seattle, Washington

    Seattle sits on top of a sedimentary basin that plays a huge part in the amount of damage that could occur in this area. The Pacific Northwest has had damaging earthquakes in the past, with the last one in 1965 at a magnitude of 6.5. There was much destruction and 7 deaths. Seattle also has volcanic risk with an earthquake.

  • 04

    Memphis, Tennessee

    Memphis, Tennessee sits on the New Madrid seismic zone, although major earthquakes are not probable, they are highly possible. This heavily populated area sits on a deposit of sediments known as the Mississippi embayment. Eastern Tennessee has had several earthquakes in the past with the largest one in 1973 registering 4.6. Significant damage occurred but no deaths, thankfully.

  • 05

    California

    Several areas of California are hot spots due to the Hayward fault line that runs throughout the area. The red areas on the USGS map indicate a 73 per cent chance of an earthquake in those areas. A liquefaction hazard exists more in the areas of Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, Alameda and Piedmont with a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. Liquefaction happens when sand turns to liquid when strongly shaken, causing serious damage to surface structures and underground utilities.




Final Thoughts

You can access the USGS site from the links below and learn how to be prepared in the event of an earthquake.


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