New Partnership to Build Public Awareness of Global Earthquake Risk

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USGS and the Global Earthquake Model Foundation take steps to save lives worldwide

Formalizing an International Partnership

The U.S. Geological Survey and the Global Earthquake Model Foundation signed an agreement that will pave the way for both parties to work collaboratively to enhance global earthquake loss modeling efforts and to incorporate these new developments into the USGS Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquake for Response, or PAGER, system – a system that provides fatality and economic loss impact estimates following significant earthquakes worldwide.

Map of surface ruptures from the July 4 and 5 Ridgecrest, CA earthquakes

General surface rupture based on field mapping and satellite data as of July 15, 2019. Ruptures from the magnitude 6.4 event trend northeast to southwest, and ruptures from the magnitude 7.1 event trend northwest to southeast. Circles indicate where scientists have visited the fault surface rupture. (Credit: USGS. Public domain.)

(Public domain.)

“The USGS and GEM working together will be a significant step forward in advancing global earthquake hazard risk modeling and enhancing seismic risk assessments at national and regional scales, mitigating earthquake risk worldwide,” said David Applegate, USGS associate director for Natural Hazards.

The USGS PAGER system rapidly assesses earthquake impacts by comparing the number of people exposed to various levels of shaking with models of economic and fatality losses based on past earthquakes in each country or region of the world. The estimated losses trigger the appropriate color-coded alert, which determines the suggested levels of response – critical information used by emergency responders, governments and aid agencies to understand the potential scope of the disaster.

Both the USGS PAGER team and the GEM risk team will work towards improving the global vulnerability models by calibrating casualty and economic loss models for the PAGER system using the catalog of recent earthquakes and their associated impacts. These improvements are critical for PAGER, which is one of the most sought-after USGS products in the aftermath of a large earthquake.

Ridgecrest EQ PAGER - 6 July 2019

M 7.1 - 2019 Ridgecrest Earthquake Sequence, updated 6 July 2019

(Public domain.)

“The USGS has had a long-standing collaborative relationship with GEM and has worked very closely with the risk team on various projects. With our partnership formalized, I have no doubt that this will usher in a new era of collaboration on global seismic hazard and risk assessment efforts for both organizations,” said Kishor Jaiswal, USGS research civil engineer.

John Schneider, the secretary general for GEM, described the partnership as not only important for GEM but also for public and private stakeholders worldwide. “The expertise and experience that the USGS brings can strengthen GEM’s programs in global earthquake hazard and risk assessment and complement GEM’s initiatives in multi-peril modelling,” said Schneider.


fault rupture

USGS geologists Josie Nevitt and Beth Haddon make measurements of fault rupture.

(Credit: Ben Brooks, USGS. Public domain.)

Science for a Risky World: The Strategies of Risk Research and Applications

In late 2018, the USGS released a report that defined for the first time the role of the USGS in risk research and applications. As such, this formalized partnership with GEM enhances the USGS’ global reach with integrated data collaboration practices and access, which will facilitate both agencies’ ability to provide applicable earthquake data to a variety of stakeholders.

The 2018 USGS report includes hazard assessments, operational forecasts and warnings, vulnerability assessments, risk assessments, risk communication, decision-support systems and post-event assessments. These activities and products are connected by the need to directly support decision makers in their efforts to better understand societal risk from hazards and to have the necessary information to make science-based, risk-reduction decisions.

This animation shows preliminary results from precise relocation of the Ridgecrest earthquake sequence, through July 6 (UTC), including the foreshock sequence and the first ~20 hours of aftershocks from M 7.1 mainshock.  The animation begins in a map view and then transitions into a rotating vertical slice.  Earthquakes are colorcoded by time of occurrence, with early events in dark blue and later events in dark red.  In general, blue and green events are related to the M 6.4 foreshock, while orange and red events are aftershocks of the M 7.1 mainshock.  Larger magnitude events are shown with larger circle size.  "Holes" in the seismicity distribution (seen on both fault segments) might indicate areas of larger slip during the M 6.4 and M 7.1 events. 

David Shelly, USGS

(Public domain.)

"The USGS has breadth and depth in monitoring and assessing a wide variety of hazards and we are a trusted resource in providing this information to the people who evaluate and try to manage risk in their communities," said Applegate. "Our presence across the U.S. facilitates collaboration with a variety of stakeholders. A new focus on risk will support ongoing efforts as well as spur new work in advancing the applications of USGS hazards science to reduce risk."

Because of the potential severity of a single hazard event, reducing risk is a high priority for policy makers, community members, emergency managers, resource managers, utility operators, business owners and planners. These stakeholders need usable, user-centric information to support decisions for planning a resilient future and for responding to and recovering from unanticipated events in more adaptable and cost-effective ways.

By introducing a robust focus on risk research and applications, the USGS is well-positioned to meet the challenge of reducing risk in the face of increasing disaster-related losses combined with rapid environmental change, shifts in urbanization and evolving resource management needs. 


For more information on the USGS’s earthquake hazards program, check out the site here.