Errors in Seismic Hazard Assessment are Creating Huge Human Losses

Tuesday, 17 June 2014
146B-C (Washington Convention Center)
James Bela, Oregon Earthquake Awareness / ISSO, Portland, OR, United States
The current practice of representing earthquake hazards to the public based upon their perceived likelihood or probability of occurrence is proven now by the global record of actual earthquakes to be not only erroneous and unreliable but also too deadly!

More than 700,000 people have now lost their lives (2000-2011), wherein 11 of the World's Deadliest Earthquakes have occurred in locations where probability-based seismic hazard assessments had predicted only low seismic low hazard.

Unless seismic hazard assessment and the setting of minimum earthquake design safety standards for buildings and bridges are based on a more realistic deterministic recognition of "what can happen" rather than on what mathematical models suggest is "most likely to happen" such future huge human losses can only be expected to continue!

The actual earthquake events that did occur were at or near the maximum potential-size event that either already had occurred in the past; or were geologically known to be possible.

Haiti's M7 earthquake, 2010 (with > 222,000 fatalities) meant the dead could not even be buried with dignity.

Japan's catastrophic Tohoku earthquake, 2011; a M9 Megathrust earthquake, unleashed a tsunami that not only obliterated coastal communities along the northern Japanese coast, but also claimed > 20,000 lives. This tsunami flooded nuclear reactors at Fukushima, causing 4 explosions and 3 reactors to melt down.

But while this history of huge human losses due to erroneous and misleading seismic hazard estimates, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived; if faced with courage and a more realistic deterministic estimate of "what is possible", it need not be lived again.

An objective testing of the results of global probability based seismic hazard maps against real occurrences has never been done by GSHAP team; even though the obvious inadequacy of the GSHAP map could have been established in the course of a simple check before the project completion.