4 May 2011

The Earth is out to get you!

Posted by Jessica Ball

Just a quick post today before I go enjoy some birthday mimosas. The New York Times has an interesting new infographic about where you should live to avoid natural disasters – namely hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. Here are the maps (click to see the full size, readable version):

By MATTHEW ERICSON, JOE BURGESS and BILL MARSH/THE NEW YORK TIMES. Sources: Sperling’s Best Places; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (tornado map); University of Miami (hurricane map); U.S. Geological Survey (earthquake map)

Buffalo actually falls in an area of mild earthquake risk; we’ve had a few small earthquakes since I’ve moved here, and it’s likely that we would feel some shaking if larger earthquakes were to occur in the northeast (such as in upstate NY).

What I find curious is that many of the cities in the Northwest – particularly those along the Cascade volcanic arc and Cascadia subduction zone – are presented as being relatively safe. Granted, this infographic doesn’t take volcanoes into account, but I do wonder how the different risks are combined to determine which cities are “safe”. I wouldn’t consider living in a city along the Cascadia subduction zone, which is capable of producing some seriously large earthquakes, to be particularly safe. However, the authors of the article and the graphic don’t explain how different risks are weighted (whether by population, number of different types of natural disaster that could occur, etc.) They also mention some other natural hazards (drought, hail, floods, and wind) when evaluating the worst and best places to live, but don’t seem to have included them in their analysis to begin with.

I’m interested in finding out the methods the authors used to produce this graphic, and if there’s any information they included that’s not pictured on the NOAA/U of Miami/USGS maps that come with it. Anyone have the inside scoop?