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A major United States earthquake by 2023?


The major earthquakes in Mexico in early September 2017 reminded the United States of its own vulnerability to earthquakes. Nearly all of the West Coast of the United States lies in the zone of highest seismic hazard, with other earthquake hotspots in Hawaii, Alaska, South Carolina, the Intermountain West, and the New Madrid region on the Missouri-Tennessee border.

The San Andreas fault, which runs much of the length of California, is of significant concern due to the concentration of people in vulnerable regions. 2008 estimates of the damage caused by "The Big One," with an estimated magnitude of 7.8, reached $200B in damage and 1,800 lives lost. Seismic zones along Utah's Wasatch Front and the New Madrid zone in the southeast would produce similarly catastrophically damaging major quakes.

23 earthquakes of magnitude 7 or above have hit the United States in the past 200 years. Some of those, like the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, caused major loss of life and property. Some, like the 2016 Old Iliamna earthquake in Alaska, caused property damage, but no fatalities. The question is not whether another major earthquake will strike soon, but where and how damaging.

Will a major United States earthquake strike by end of 2022?

This question will resolve as positive if an earthquake with a magnitude of at least 7.0 on the moment magnitude scale, with an epicenter within the borders of the United States and estimated damage of $10 billion or more, occurs on or before December 31, 2022. Damage estimates need not be completed before the target resolution date.

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