Stein 10/18/03 2 POLICY-MAKING CHALLENGE Of world seismic zones, New Madrid seismic zone (NMSZ) has one of (if not the) highest ratios of publicity & public interest to actual knowledge Owing to low rate of earthquakes and their location in the middle of the mostly-stable North American plate (as opposed to a plate boundary) little is known about the earthquakes, their causes, and resulting hazards Situation won't improve much for 100s-1000s of years Little confidence can be placed in what we think we know, so opinions are divergent, change rapidly, and will continue to do so Public perceptions often make little sense As in Washington, D.C., "sound travels faster than light"
Stein 10/18/03 3 SCIENCE QUESTIONS (won't be resolved for 100s-1000s of years): What causes NMSZ earthquakes? How large are they? When did they start, and how often (if ever) will they recur? How strong will shaking be? HAZARD ISSUES: How well can we estimate the probability of future earthquakes, their size, and the resulting hazards? How uncertain are the results? How will these estimates change with time? When will we be able to be confident of them? How should the uncertainties be communicated to the public and policy makers? POLICY ISSUE (immediate): whether to immediately upgrade earthquake provisions from present building code to IBC 2003 (essentially California-level) without considering costs and benefits and comparing them to alternatives, that might better use public & private resources