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Monday, 9 January 2012

Describing earthquake related land damage - how the Americans do it.

The Americans, as is often the case, lead the way in sharing and explaining information. This seems to be especially so with material relating to earthquakes. In New Zealand there appears to be a mixture of reluctance to make information available, and a lack of understanding of the need for doing so.

A good example of how it could be done is a report prepared by the Unites States Geological Service (USGS) relating to earthquake damage experienced by the township of Ocean, San Luis Obispo County, California. Oceano suffered an unanticipated high level of damage as the result of a 6.5M earthquake 80km away. The major effect of the earthquake was liquefaction induced lateral spreading.

After their investigations the USGS produced a report: Liquefaction-Induced Lateral Spreading in Oceano, California, During the 2003 San Simeon Earthquake. Starting with a substantial Nontechnical Summary the report then provided detailed coverage of what happened, how, what was investigated and where, the results of the investigations, significant issues relating to the land under the town, how these produced the extent of liquefaction and lateral spread that occurred, the implications for the town in the event of future earthquakes, and a discussion on the mitigation of the hazards identified.

For a number of people this is the level of information we want. It is not necessarily too technical for non-specialists, as some skills can be acquired to make sense of what is being described. It ought not be EQC, CERA, or the government's decision whether the public can understand technical information. If written appropriately it can be understood.

The report is here.

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