Plate Movement


That's not exactly the kind of plate movement I plan on discussing today. As I mentioned last week, I planned on writing a post on earthquakes before I got interrupted by another snow storm. Luckily, because of the lag time before posting far more people have written on the topic of earthquakes and I can provide you with links for further reading. Just like the 2001 "summer of the shark" 2010 could have been called "the year of earthquakes." The number of earthquakes in 2010 (and so far in 2011) does not seem to be above average. You can look at earthquake data for the last decade from the U. S. Geological Survey for confirmation. According to the June, 2010 Reactions Magazine article, The $1trn Exposure "The number of earthquakes this year [2010] has been normal but the casualties and insured losses have not. Risk Modellers are asking where the next Mega quake could strike." UPDATE: This sentiment was re-affirmed today by the Wall Street Journal article: Swiss Re Expects Quakes to Become Deadlier, Costlier. The article goes on to provide some forecasting of the most vulnerable regions world wide. The region in Japan they thought most likely to cause severe damage (and casualties) was not the one where the current earthquake has hit. Wired Magazinee discusses this error in their article Japan Quake Epicenter Was in Unexpected Location. I believe if you asked the average person where they think the next big US-based earthquake would be, they would respond California. They wouldn't necessarily be wrong. Cascadia is listed as a "most vulnerable area" in the Reactions article cited above. Los Angeles is listed as a U.S. Megadisaster threat for earthquakes on an informative map that Risk Management Magazine published in March of 2010 (for more from this map, feel free to contact us, or stop by the library to take a look). George Santayana would be disappointed in those responses though, especially in this, the bicentennial year of the New Madrid earthquakes. According to Risk Management Magazine's Risk Atlas mentioned above, "recent research suggests that the [New Madrid] fault line may be more stable than ever, but FEMA has said that a 7.7 magnitude quake here could lead to 'the highest economic losses due to a natural disaster in the United States." The fault line affects Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee but when it quaked in 1811 and 1812 it affected states even farther away. BestWeek, in a February 28, 2011 article said: "The area along the Mississippi River is no longer a sparsely populated area with the occasional log cabin. If a series of three major earthquakes were to strike that area today, it could cost an estimated $79 billion in insured property losses, according to AIR Worldwide." The article is accompanied by a colorful loss map illustrating the losses in millions for the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Of course, insured losses are different than total losses; this is especially true in the United States where flood and earthquake insurance are not included in the standard homeowners or commercial property policies. BestWeek published another article in their February 28, 2011 issue titled Costly Quake Covers Limit U.S. Policies. The article points out that 90% of the homeowners in New Zealand (the site of two earthquakes in the last six months) have earthquake insurance. New Zealanders attending a meeting on earthquake insurance, were shocked to find out that 90% of Californians do not have earthquake coverage. According to Advisen's front page news on Monday, The Wall Street Journal published an article examining coverage in the United States for major disasters like those in Japan. The article, entitled: Disaster Insurance: How Well Are You Covered, addresses some of the same concerns as those mentioned in the BestWeek article. Risk Management Magazine has an article in the March, 2010 edition titled After Haiti: The Future of Disasters. They end their article with this: "Catastrophes are just as possible domestically as they are abroad. The longer we go without taking the necessary steps to increase preparedness, the sooner we will have to stop calling these natural disasters and start calling them man-made catastrophes." Perhaps that's a bit sensational, but it does get across the point that natural disasters, especially earthquakes, require preparation on our part. The library stands ready to answer more in-depth questions about earthquake insurance, both for consumers and those in the industry. We have access to any of the articles mentioned in this blog post as well as statistical information on earthquake insurance and groups writing such insurance in various states. We even have some (though not a lot) of information on earthquake and other natural disaster forecasting. Please feel free to contact us if you're interested in any specific information.