New seismic fault found in Idaho, USA

By Richard Gravelle

As Haiti continues to suffer following the January 2010 earthquake, and Christchurch, New Zealand is rebuilt, the world has become more and more familiar with the devastation that these events can cause.

It will concern many therefore that scientists in Idaho State University have mapped a new fault in the Rocky Mountains of Idaho that is capable of producing a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, possibly within the next few decades.

Although not the most populated state in the USA (around 1.5 million residents; 0.5% of the population of the US), an earthquake could still cause tremors and aftershocks all the way to the state capital Boise.  The fault extends for 40 miles and is believed to have caused two earthquakes in the past 10,000 years: one occurring 7,000 years ago and the other 4,000 years ago.

John Ebel, professor of geophysics at Boston College, says that uncovering a fault of this magnitude should not necessarily serve as an “alarm that something is imminent”.  However, given the unpredictability of faults, Prof. Ebel suggested that people who live near the fault should familiarize themselves with earthquake procedures and prepare themselves in case an earthquake does occur.

This advice is supported by findings of Crozier et al. (2006) who suggest that the extent to which people’s views on the causes and preventability of earthquake damage can be influenced by their degree of exposure to hazard, as well as what information they have been given about the hazard.

Let’s hope than that people who live in proximity to the fault will be prepared in the event of an earthquake and that major damage and loss of life can be avoided.

Feature image caption: The well known San Andreas Fault, California, USA

BBC News, 18th November 2010. Scientists find new seismic fault in Rocky Mountains

Crozier, M., McClure, J., Vercoe, J., & Wilson, M., 2006. The effects of hazard zone information on judgements about earthquake damage. Area 38 (2), 143-152

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