Metrics for Assessing Earthquake Hazard Map Performance (WP-14-13)


Seth Stein, Bruce Spencer, Edward Brooks

Recent large earthquakes that did great damage in areas predicted to be relatively safe illustrate the importance of criteria to assess how well earthquake hazard maps used to develop codes for earthquake-resistant construction are actually performing. At present, there is no agreed way of assessing how well a map performed and thus whether one map performed better than another. The fractional site exceedance metric implicit in current maps, that during the chosen time interval the predicted ground motion will be exceeded only at a specific fraction of the sites, is useful but permits maps to be nominally successful although they significantly underpredict or overpredict shaking, or to be nominally unsuccessful but do well in terms of predicting shaking. The researchers explore some possible metrics that better measure the effects of overprediction and underprediction and can be weighted to reflect the two differently and to reflect differences in populations and property at risk. Although no single metric alone fully characterizes map behavior, using several metrics can provide useful insight for comparing and improving hazard maps. For example, although both probabilistic and deterministic hazard maps for Italy do reasonably well by the fractional site exceedance metric for a 2,200-year-long historical intensity catalog, they dramatically overpredict the recorded shaking, illustrating biases in the data, models, or both. 

Seth Stein, William Deering Professor, Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences Faculty Associate, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

Bruce Spencer, Professor, Department of Statistics Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

Edward Brooks, Graduate Student, Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences and Department of Statistics, Northwestern University

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