, Volume 168, Issue 1-2, pp 11-25

Seismic Hazard Assessment: Issues and Alternatives

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Abstract

Seismic hazard and risk are two very important concepts in engineering design and other policy considerations. Although seismic hazard and risk have often been used interchangeably, they are fundamentally different. Furthermore, seismic risk is more important in engineering design and other policy considerations. Seismic hazard assessment is an effort by earth scientists to quantify seismic hazard and its associated uncertainty in time and space and to provide seismic hazard estimates for seismic risk assessment and other applications. Although seismic hazard assessment is more a scientific issue, it deserves special attention because of its significant implication to society. Two approaches, probabilistic seismic hazard analysis (PSHA) and deterministic seismic hazard analysis (DSHA), are commonly used for seismic hazard assessment. Although PSHA has been proclaimed as the best approach for seismic hazard assessment, it is scientifically flawed (i.e., the physics and mathematics that PSHA is based on are not valid). Use of PSHA could lead to either unsafe or overly conservative engineering design or public policy, each of which has dire consequences to society. On the other hand, DSHA is a viable approach for seismic hazard assessment even though it has been labeled as unreliable. The biggest drawback of DSHA is that the temporal characteristics (i.e., earthquake frequency of occurrence and the associated uncertainty) are often neglected. An alternative, seismic hazard analysis (SHA), utilizes earthquake science and statistics directly and provides a seismic hazard estimate that can be readily used for seismic risk assessment and other applications.