USA: The California earthquake drought is an opportunity. Will we take it?
By Lucy Jones
Research published this week confirmed that California has been in a century-long earthquake drought. Analysis of geologic records on the state’s main faults — the San Andreas, San Jacinto and Hayward — going back 1,000 years shows that the gaps between large quakes are, currently, longer than to be expected from random variation. Southern California has been particularly quiet for the last 25 years, with the rate of small and moderate earthquakes almost half of what it had been in the previous half a century.
We know that cities can never be made fully “earthquake-proof.” It makes no economic sense to tear down every building and put up a super-strong replacement. There are, however, many known vulnerabilities that, if left unaddressed, will kill some of us, make all our lives more difficult after the earthquake, and make our recovery longer and more painful.
A whole generation of Californians have now grown up without experiencing a damaging earthquake, and some people worry that we’ve become complacent about seismic safety here. But that’s not what I see. In fact, many of these steps are being taken. Since 2012, eight California cities have passed mandatory retrofit ordinances and many more are considering it. The question is how fast and aggressively the work gets done.
The earthquake drought is giving us a chance to make better decisions and reduce our losses. Will we take it?