Compared to other natural hazards, major earthquakes are rare in most parts of the world. But, when they do strike, earthquakes hit affected areas usually unprepared and can result in tremendous devastation. The year 2010 was a stark reminder of this: During that year, earthquakes caused 226'902 fatalities worldwide, most due to the earthquake hitting Haiti on January 12 of 2010. The following year saw the largest ever financial impact on the global economy due to earthquakes with a total economic loss of USD 254.2 billion mainly due to the M 9.0 earthquake hitting Japan on March 11, 2011.
While predicting the time and location of future earthquakes remains illusive, a fair amount of knowledge exists regarding the overall earthquake risk for different places around the globe. Having an up to date view on earthquake hazard is an important step towards raising awareness to this often forgotten risk. It also helps earthquake engineers to design buildings with the location-specific earthquake hazard in mind. And finally, insurance underwriters can use this information to consider the location-specific earthquake hazard to inform their underwriting decisions.
For these purposes, Swiss Re's CatNET has always provided a global view on seismic hazard, which has so far been based on the outputs of the Global Seismic Hazard Assessment Program (GSHAP). The GSHAP layer was a good attempt at a global view on earthquake risk when it was finalized and published in 1998 by a consortium of scientific institutions. Since then, understanding of seismic hazard has improved substantially in many regions.
To reflect the advances in seismology in the past 16 years, Swiss Re has now built a new and up to date global map of seismic hazard by compiling views on earthquake risk from various sources around the world and by adding insights from new in house earthquake models in regions where no up to date information is publicly available. As such, we view this new global seismic hazard map as a significant improvement over what is currently available.
Category: Climate/natural disasters: Disaster risk, Earthquakes, Resilience