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Message from the Director
he forces of nature, tragically evident in fiscal year 1990, added a host of new challenges for the U.S. Geological Survey. This year also marked significant accomplishments and advancements in our mission of providing “Earth Science in the Public Service.” The “World Series" Loma Prieta earthquake of October 17, 1989, was one that will long be remembered for the devastation it caused in northern California and for the scientific lessons that it taught. The earthquake followed close after the destruction from Hurricane Hugo, which affected our citizens from the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to the coastal areas of North and South Carolina. Just after the hurricane we were able to use our hydrologic knowledge to assist in restoring water resources to the citizens of St. Croix. Then, in December, Mount Redoubt volcano in Alaska awoke from a dormant period and began periodic eruptions that drastically affected air travel and caused concern for oil transport and public safety. In Hawaii, Kilauea volcano continued its longest lived eruption in this century throughout the year. Such natural hazards are sobering reminders that we will never control nature. By understanding better the mechanisms of these hazards, we can mitigate the severity of their impacts. The theme of preparedness is the emphasis of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), which began in January 1990. As one of the signatory nations to the United Nations resolution that authorized the IDNDR, the United States is developing a national program to prepare for natural hazards. Through scientific research, social planning and preparedness, and proper emergency response, we can, as a Nation and as a global community, work to lessen the effects of natural hazards and reduce the economic and social losses from natural disasters. While the effects of nature's forces can be intense and often severe, they are nonetheless short-term events. Other issues of concern to the environment are longer term and are thus also a challenge to the earth scientist. The cumulative impact of human activities on our water resources can result in changes to the quality of those resources. Nature itself can affect water resources so that the water is not of sufficient quality to meet human needs. To address pressing national questions, to determine the long-term trends, and to identify, describe, and explain the major factors that affect water quality, the USGS has undertaken a first-time-ever comprehensive assessment of the quality of the Nation's surface- and groundwater resources. This ambitious task, which was tested in 7 pilot studies, and begun at 20 study sites in fiscal year 1991, will provide the Nation with the information necessary for addressing policy and scientific issues related to water quality.
A long-term environmental issue challenging earth scientists throughout the world is that of interdisciplinary research on global change. The Earth is a dynamic planet, and change is occurring always around us. As yet science does not have the finite answers to many of the questions concerning the changing environment of our planet. We must develop a sound understanding of the cycles of natural change and the impacts of human activities on Earth systems and develop the capability to predict changes. The mission-oriented geologic, hydrologic, geographic, and data management activities of the USGS provide a sound basis of information with which to investigate this intriguing area of longer term environmental change. Among this year's significant accomplishments was the completion of primary topographic mapping of the conterminous United States. With that milestone achieved, the USGS is continuing its work to develop more sophisticated technology to update existing maps and to make them available in digital form. During this year we also completed the Louisiana Barrier Island Erosion Study. The maps from this study will be key to making accurate and reliable predictions of future conditions along the coast and adjacent wetland environments. The USGS also completed, in cooperation with the Bureau of Mines, an initial assessment of the mineral potential of the Bureau of Land Management wilderness areas and is continuing our cooperative efforts with the U.S. Forest Service to assess the mineral resources of National Forests. Water resources investigations, conducted in every State, were supported by State agencies to increase our understanding of the Nation's water resources. Also this year, USGS outreach programs answered the call from Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan to address the earth science educational needs of the Nation, the role of volunteerism, and the interests of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities. We are strongly committed to enhancing our support in these areas as part of the conduct of our mandated mission in the geologic, hydrologic, and mapping Sciences. As earth scientists we have the opportunity to be the first line of defense in meeting present and future environmental challenges. We are committed to meeting those challenges and in providing the best science possible to meet the needs of the Nation we serve. It is with great pleasure that I present to you the accomplishments of the USGS for 1990.
Dallas L. Peck
Research and Response
International Decade for Reducing Loss from Natural Disasters
By Walter W. Hays
he United States is planning a balanced and comprehensive program of research and applications for the 1990's as a part of the United Nations International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR). The U.S. program is designed to reduce the loss of life and damage to property from natural disasters. Worldwide loss from such disasters is increasing rapidly due to population growth, urbanization, and the concentration of industry and infrastructure in areas prone to recurrent natural hazards. The U.S. program will complement the programs of 154 other signatory nations of the December 1989 IDNDR resolution of the 44th General Assembly of the United Nations. The resolution calls for all nations to develop programs to achieve the IDNDR goal of reducing the loss of life, economic impact, and human suffering resulting from natural disasters. The IDNDR is both an unprecedented opportunity and a challenge. The opportunity is to apply new understanding of natural forces to regions at risk to minimize loss of life. The challenge is that such a multidisciplinary effort must be taken on a global scale, an undertaking never before attempted. The task of the IDNDR is great. Statistics compiled in 1989 by the United Nations International Ad Hoc Group of Experts show that, by the year 2000, the surface of the Earth will be subjected to • One million thunderstorms, • 100,000 floods, • Tens of thousands of damaging landslides, earthquakes, wildfires, and tornadoes, and • Several hundred to several thousand tropical cyclones and hurricanes, tsunamis, droughts, insect infestations, and volcanic eruptions. Some of these recurrent natural hazards will cause a disaster. A disaster occurs when people are killed or property is destroyed, but, for purposes of planning for assistance, a disaster is defined as a disruption of human
activity that prevents a community from functioning normally. The consequences of disasters are grave.
Recall these recent U.S. disasters: floods in Arkansas, Texas, and Ohio; tornadoes in New York, Alabama, and Indiana; wildfires in Wyoming, California, and Oregon; earthquakes in California; hurricanes along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts; volcanic eruptions in Hawaii and Alaska; and droughts in the Midwest, Southeast, and California. The worldwide consequences of disasters, taken as a whole, are alarming. For example, the World Health Organization reports that worldwide natural disasters occurring between 1964 and 1983 killed more than 2 million people and left almost 750 million people homeless, orphaned, sick, or injured.
The United States has accepted the challenge of the IDNDR because of its great potential to assist in achieving the specified goals and because every U.S. State and Territory has communities that are at risk. Some are at risk from natural hazards that recur at intervals ranging from every year for floods, landslides, tornadoes, hurricanes, and wildfires to once every few years for damaging earthquakes and drought. Others face risks once every century or more for major earthquakes, such as those in Alaska, California, and the Mississippi Valley area, and for large volcanic eruptions, such as those in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.
However infrequently these natural hazards occur, they cause direct economic losses of more than $20 billion per year. At risk economically is the multitrillion dollar inventory of dwellings, office buildings, government facilities and military installations, industrial complexes, schools, hospitals, utility and communication systems, and other facilities that are located throughout the Nation in hazardprone regions such as • In or adjacent to fault zones capable of generating damaging earthquakes, • Along coasts where hurricanes, storm surges, or tsunami flood waves strike, • Near active volcanoes, • On unstable slopes susceptible to landslides, • In flood plains subject to inundation, • In regions prone to tornadoes, • Along wilderness-urban interfaces vulnerable to wildfires, and • In regions subject to drought or insect infestation.
Earthquake Fatalities of the 20th Century
1990 Philippines (M=77)3,100 1960 Agadir, Morocco (M=5.9) 12,000 1968 Dasht-i Biyaz, Iran (M=7.3) 12,000 1962 Buyin Zhara, Iran (M=7.3) 12,225 1917 Indonesia (M=7.0+) 15,000 1978 Tabas, Iran (M=7.7) 18,200 1905 Kangra, India (M=8.6) 19,000 1948 Ashkhabad, USSR (M=73) 19,800 1974 China (M=6.8) 20,000 1976 Guatemala City (M=7.5) 23,000 1988 Armenia, USSR (M=6.8). 24,944 1935 Quetta, Pakistan (M=7.5) 25,000 1939 Chillán, Chile (M=8.3). 28,000 1915 Avezzano, Italy (M=7.5) 32,610 1939 Erzincan, Turkey (M=8.0) 32,700 1990 Iran (M=7.7) 40,000 1927. Tsinghai, China (M=8.0) 40,912 1908 Messina, Italy (M=7.5) 58,000 1970 Ankash, Peru (M=8.3) 66,794 1923 Kanto, Japan (M=8.3) 142,807 1920 Kansu, China (M=8.5) 200,000 1976 Tangshan, China (M=7.8).242,469
Types of actions that local jurisdictions throughout the Nation will take during the 1990's to make their communities more resilient to matural hazards.
Moreover, the Nation's building wealth is growing at a rate of $400 billion per year as new public and private construction adds to the number of buildings and lifeline systems. The total value of new construction during the 1990's will reach approximately $4 trillion. Earthquakes and hurricanes alone have the potential for causing greater average annual loss to structures than that for all other hazards combined. Two 1989 events, Hurricane Hugo and the Loma Prieta, Calif., earthquake, illustrate the devastating effects of a category 4 hurricane (see Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, p. 8) and a magnitude 7.1 earthquake. Together they caused direct losses of $15 billion and indirect losses of $30 to $45 billion, resulted in the deaths of more than 100 people and injured several thousand more, rendered tens of thousands homeless or jobless, and left communities facing a long, complex recovery process.
The U.S. program for the IDNDR has been prepared through a 17-member national committee convened in 1989 by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences and Engineering and the Federal science and disaster-reduction agencies. The Federal agencies work as the Subcommittee on Natural Disaster Reduction under the direction of the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Action at the local and State level will rally as many as 30,000 local jurisdictions and several million people. Local jurisdiction will be encouraged to adopt and enforce policies that will reduce losses from natural hazards through • Hazard and risk assessments, • Preparedness and mitigation measures, • Prediction and warnings for all natural hazards, • Improved planning, siting, design, and construction practices, • Awareness and education for all sectors of the society,
• Loss reduction based on lessons learned from disasters throughout the world, and • Cooperative national and international endeavors designed to collect, analyze, and share data, experiences, and mitigation techniques for specific natural hazards. In each local jurisdiction, three demonstration studies will serve as the means to integrate and coordinate hazard reduction efforts: • Disaster Prevention Resource Network—A national multihazards information system available to fulfill local and national needs for natural disaster data. • Natural Hazard Prediction Experiments— Specific hazard-prone locations that will be used as natural laboratories to advance prediction techniques for each type of natural hazard that jurisdictions are exposed to. • Hazard-Reduction Regions—Selected geographic regions having jurisdictions that take specific action to reduce hazards. This action will result in hazard resistant schools, hospitals, and other essential facilities within those jurisdictions. The progress of each jurisdiction will be monitored as the U.S. program unfolds. Each jurisdiction is free to choose those program elements that best suit their needs. Some of the hoped-for changes that will help to measure the success of the IDNDR are increased understanding of the physical and social aspects of natural disaster reduction, improved risk assessment and emergency response and recovery plans, and increased awareness by the public, policymakers,
When a community is prepared, disaster is reduced.
emergency planners, and the media of natural disasters, preparedness, and mitigation.
The ultimate test of the success of the IDNDR, however, will be whether or not the frequency and severity of natural disasters in the 21st century are lessened as a consequence of actions implemented during the 1990's. The key element in reducing the severity and number of natural disasters that result from natural hazards is preparedness. When a community is prepared, disaster is reduced; when a community is not prepared, disaster occurs.
The Loma Prieta Earthquake
he magnitude 7.1 Loma Prieta, Calif., earthquake began suddenly and without foreshock warning at 5:04 p.m. PDT on October 17, 1989. The earthquake resulted in 62 confirmed fatalities, 3,757 injuries, more than 12,000 homeless, and property losses and recovery costs estimated to exceed $6 billion. Although larger earthquakes have affected the United States in recent decades, not since 1906 has an earthquake had such dramatic consequences. Indeed, the losses in lives and in public and private property place it among the Nation's most costly natural disasters. The earthquake ruptured a segment of the San Andreas fault system that lies within the southern Santa Cruz Mountains. This segment had been recognized as early as 1983 as having a high probability for failure in the following few decades. The Working Group on California Earthquake Probabilities concluded in 1988 that this segment had a higher probability for producing a magnitude 6.5 to 7 earthquake than any other fault segment in Northern California. Along certain of the crustal plate boundaries of the Earth, large active faults such as the San Andreas exist. Along some segments of these faults, no large earthquakes have occurred for long intervals of time. Scientists term these quiet segments “seismic gaps" and have forecast the time when some of these seismic gaps in the record will be filled by large earthquakes. The 7.1 Loma Prieta mainshock filled a gap in the seismicity record of the northern San Andreas fault, lending further credibility to the use of seismic gaps in earthquake forecasting. While anticipated, the earthquake had no obvious short-term seismic or strain precursors. The clearest harbinger, a marked increase in seismicity in the 16 months before the event, was recognized and widely