Science & Tech

New earthquake mapping system could save lives

1 min read

3-D modeling captures complexities of fault lines

“The earthquake-hazard maps currently in use are based on the premise that the closer a building is to a large fault, the better designed it should be,” says Harvard earthquake expert John Shaw. “But what these new, comprehensive 3-D models we’ve developed tell us is that this basic rule of proximity doesn’t always work.” A case in point is the quake that interrupted the 1989 World Series in San Francisco. “There were areas that were very close to the epicenter of that earthquake that were damaged very little,” says Shaw, “and then there were areas like the Marina District that were actually quite far from the earthquake center, which were almost completely devastated.” A team of Harvard and California Institute of Technology researchers led by Shaw has developed a better model for determining earthquake hazards. The model could save lives by allowing planners to more accurately gauge the possible effects of earthquakes.