Top 10 U.S. cities by earthquake hazard rate

Andrey Kamenov

Andrey Kamenov, Ph.D. Probability and Statistics

Every six years, the U.S. Geological Survey releases maps showing earthquake hazard rates across the U.S. Additionally, they provide the underlying raw data to the public. This allows us to look for patterns in the data and find better ways to visualize them than with a simple static map.

The data set is quite large. To simplify things a little, we will focus on just one number: a 2 percent probability of exceedance in 50 years (that is, the severity of an earthquake with the specified chance to happen). There are, of course, other ways to measure the risk, but they all are highly correlated.

Below is a chart showing the percentages of the U.S. population living in areas with typical earthquake hazards. We are using the Instrumental Intensity scale here, which is similar to the most commonly used (but less strictly defined) Mercalli scale.

Percentage of the U.S. population by area earthquake hazard rate

US population by earthquake hazard rate

So, more than 8 percent of the total population lives in areas with a significant risk of experiencing a violent earthquake in their lifetime. Moreover, if we include hazard levels of “Very Strong” and above, the number rises to almost 25 percent, or one in every four Americans.

With such a high percentage of the population at risk, you may wonder if your city is affected. To find out, you can always use our interactive map below, which shows the hazard rates across the country (click your state to zoom in), as well as the largest cities with a significant risk of at least very strong earthquakes.

Two-percent probability of exceedance in 50 years

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About Andrey Kamenov

Andrey Kamenov

Andrey Kamenov, Ph.D. Probability and Statistics

Andrey Kamenov is a data scientist working for Advameg Inc. His background includes teaching statistics, stochastic processes and financial mathematics in Moscow State University and working for a hedge fund. His academic interests range from statistical data analysis to optimal stopping theory. Andrey also enjoys his hobbies of photography, reading and powerlifting.

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