OpenHazards.com Predictions Align with Chile Earthquake Observations
Saturday, February 28, 2010: Still reeling from the devastating effects of the magnitude 7.0 Haiti earthquake of January 12, 2010, the world today is witnessing immense destruction and life loss in the aftermath of a magnitude 8.8 earthquake in Chile – an event hundreds of times larger than Haiti, which could turn out to be one of the most powerful earthquakes in history. In just a few tens of seconds, the Nazca tectonic plate “slid” beneath South American plate. Populations at risk in coastal areas as far away as the Pacific coasts of the US and Canada, Alaska, Hawaii, Japan and Australia are preparing for the destructive effects of the tsunami generated by the event.
OpenHazards.com projected a greater than 1% chance during the next year for an M>8 earthquake in the region where today’s magnitude 8.8 earthquake occurred. The projection, consistent with the historical record, included ground shaking estimates using the Modified Mercalli scale of maximum intensity VIII, with MM VI over a larger region. These predictions align with actual observations following the first event and subsequent aftershocks.
The most powerful earthquake recorded with instruments, a magnitude 9.5, also occurred in Valdivia, Chile in May of 1960. That event killed 1,655 people and left about two million people homeless. The strongest earthquake in recent years was a magnitude 9.3 earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in 2004, which generated the tsunami that killed almost 228,000 people in South Asia.
According to earthquake scientist John Rundle, PhD, OpenHazards.com is currently undergoing a significant site upgrade, which will make it much more user friendly and feature more content and information for the general public. The Open Hazards Group, says Rundle, also plans to introduce “premium” services that cannot be easily provided in a rapid, online setting. The new services will provide homeowners with more in-depth, detailed information about earthquakes and related hazards in their area, including where to find experts to assist with mitigation and planning.
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John Rundle is a Distinguished Professor of Physics and Geology at UC Davis and the Executive Director of the APEC Collaboration for Earthquake Simulations. He chaired the Board of Advisors for the Southern California Earthquake Center from 1994 to 1996. Read John's blog.