Nav: Home

Babe Ruth and earthquake hazard maps

October 29, 2015

Boulder, CO, USA - Northwestern University researchers have turned to an unusual source -- Major League Baseball -- to help learn why maps used to predict shaking in future earthquakes often do poorly.

Earthquake hazard maps use assumptions about where, when, and how big future earthquakes will be to predict the level of shaking. The results are used in designing earthquake-resistant buildings. However, as the study's lead author, earth science and statistics graduate student Edward Brooks, explains "sometimes the maps do well, and sometimes they do poorly. In particular, the shaking and thus damage in some recent large earthquakes was much larger than expected."

Part of the problem is that seismologists have not developed ways to describe how well these maps perform. As Seth Stein, William Deering Professor of Geological Sciences explains "we need the kind of information the weather service has, where they can tell you how much confidence to have in their forecasts."

The question is how to measure performance. Bruce Spencer, professor of statistics, explains that "it's like asking how good a baseball player Babe Ruth was. The answer depends on how one measures performance. In many seasons Ruth led the league in both home runs and in the number of times he struck out. By one measure he did very well, and by another, very poorly. In the same way, we are using several measures to describe how hazard maps perform."

Another problem is that the hazard maps try to forecast shaking over hundreds over years, because buildings have long lifetimes. As a result, it takes a long time to tell how well a map is working. To get around this, the team looked backwards in time, using records of earthquake shaking in Japan that go back 500 years. They compared the shaking to the forecasts of the published hazard maps. They also compared the shaking to maps in which the expected shaking was the same everywhere in Japan, and maps in which the expected shaking at places was assigned at random from the published maps.

The results were surprising. In Brook's words "it turns out that by the most commonly used measure using the uniform and randomized maps work better than the published maps. By another measure, the published maps work better."

The message, in Stein's view, is that seismologists need to know a lot more about how these maps work. "Some of the problem is likely to be that how earthquakes occur in space and time is more complicated that the maps assume. Until we get a better handle on this, people using earthquake hazard maps should recognize that they have large uncertainties. Brightly colored maps look good, but the earth doesn't have to obey them and sometimes won't."
-end-
This research will be presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America in Baltimore, MD, as part of the Bridging Two Continents joint "meeting-within-a meeting" with the Geological Society of China.

CONTACTS:

Edward Brooks, eddie@earth.northwestern.edu, 215-630-5436
Seth Stein, s-stein@northwestern.edu, 847-308-3806

WHAT:

Session 6
Active Intracontinental Tectonics in Asia and North America and the Associated Geohazards
session link: https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2015AM/webprogram/Session38003.html

Paper 6-12, Using Historical Intensity Data To Assess Long-Term Performance of Earthquake Hazard Maps
Abstract link: https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2015AM/webprogram/Paper262579.html

WHERE & WHEN:

Sunday, 1 November 2015: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM
Room 349/350 (Baltimore Convention Center)
Presentation Time: 11:20 AM

The Geological Society of America, founded in 1888, serves more than 27,000 members from academia, government, and industry in more than 100 countries. Through its meetings, publications, and programs, GSA enhances the professional growth of its members and promotes the geosciences in the service of humankind. GSA encourages cooperative research among earth, life, planetary, and social scientists, fosters public dialogue on geoscience issues, and supports all levels of earth science education.

Figure caption: Comparison of Japanese national earthquake hazard map (top) to uniform and randomized versions. The map predicts the level of shaking, shown by colors from red (highest) to white (least) expected to be exceeded at 5% of the sites on the map in the next 50 years. Surprisingly, by the most commonly used measure, the uniform and randomized maps work better than the published maps. Image courtesy of Seth Stein, Northwestern University.

Geological Society of America

Related Major League Baseball Articles:

Shoulder injuries in professional baseball players: A continuing puzzle
Professional baseball players struggle to return to a high level of play after biceps tenodesis (BP) surgery, according to research presented today at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine's (AOSSM) Specialty Day in San Diego.
Study identifies modifiable risk factors for elbow injuries in baseball pitchers
Elbow injuries continue to be on the rise in baseball players, especially pitchers, yet little is known about the actual variables that influence these injuries.
Jet lag impairs performance of Major League Baseball players
A Northwestern University study of how jet lag affects Major League Baseball players traveling across just a few time zones found that when players travel in a way that misaligns their internal 24-hour clock with the natural environment and its cycle of sunlight, they suffer negative consequences.
New study provides carbon footprint league table for food
The first global carbon footprint league table for fresh food helps people cook meals without cooking the planet.
Heavy hitters: Obesity rate soars among professional baseball players
Major League Baseball players have become overwhelmingly overweight and obese during the last quarter century, say health researchers.
More Major League Baseball News and Major League Baseball Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...