Disaster Deferred: How New Science is Changing Our View of Earthquake Hazards in the Midwest

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Columbia University Press, 2010 - Nature - 282 pages
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In the winter of 1811-12, a series of large earthquakes in the New Madrid seismic zone-often incorrectly described as the biggest ever to hit the United States-shook the Midwest. Today the federal government ranks the hazard in the Midwest as high as California's and is pressuring communities to undertake expensive preparations for disaster.

Coinciding with the two-hundredth anniversary of the New Madrid earthquakes, Disaster Deferred revisits these earthquakes, the legends that have grown around them, and the predictions of doom that have followed in their wake. Seth Stein clearly explains the techniques seismologists use to study Midwestern quakes and estimate their danger. Detailing how limited scientific knowledge, bureaucratic instincts, and the media's love of a good story have exaggerated these hazards, Stein calmly debunks the hype surrounding such predictions and encourages the formulation of more sensible, less costly policy. Powered by insider knowledge and an engaging style, Disaster Deferred shows how new geological ideas and data, including those from the Global Positioning System, are painting a very different-and much less frightening-picture of the future.

  

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Contents

Seismic Waves
78
Seismograms
84
Seeing into the Earth
92
Plate Tectonics Explains Most Earthquakes
116
Earthquakes That Shouldnt Happen
136
Whats Going on Down There?
148
Guidance from Heaven
161
Faults Turning On and Off
178
More Dangerous than California?
192
Chemotherapy for a Cold
218
What to Do?
236
Further Reading and Sources
255
Acknowledgments
269
Copyright

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About the author (2010)

Seth Stein is Deering Professor of Geological Sciences at North-western University. He has received the James B. Macelwane Medal of the American Geophysical Union, the George P. Woollard Award of the Geological Society of America, and the Stephen Mueller Medal of the European Geosciences Union. He has also been elected a foreign member of the Academy of Europe and a fellow of the American Geophysical Union and Geological Society of America. His research interests are in plate tectonics, earthquake seismology, earthquake hazards, and space geodesy. He was one of the organizers of EarthScope, a national initiative to dramatically advance our knowledge of the structure and evolution of North America, served as scientific director of the sonsortium of universities using GPS for earth science, and has been visiting senior scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. He is a coauthor of a widely used seismology textbook, a former editor of the Journal of Geophisical Reseach, and the founder of Northwestern's Environmental Science program.

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