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News Media Tip - March 21, 2001 ***SPECIAL EDITION*** For more information on these science news and feature

story tips, please contact the public information officer at the end of each item at (703) 292-8070. Editor: Bill Noxon This is the first in a series on NSF-supported research in earthquake-related areas. The recent earthquake centered near Seattle was the subject of a hearing before the House Science Research Subcommittee Mar. 21, where experts relayed some of their findings. In addition, research and reconnaissance teams are working to learn more about the Seattle-area quake. The National Science Foundation (NSF) supports earthquakerelated research through: multi-agency cooperation under the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program; NSF Science and Technology Center; Earthquake Engineering Research Centers; and other interdisciplinary research and educational activities.


Limited Damage From Seattle Area's "Nisqually" Earthquake Due to its Deep "Hypocenter" When the Puget Sound region of Washington state was jolted from its morning routine on Feb. 28 by a magnitude 6.8 earthquake, the damage was noticeably less severe than might have been expected from such a quake, say scientists at the NSF-funded Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) in Los Angeles. This event, named the Nisqually earthquake, for a river delta near its epicenter, was actually larger than the devastating 1994 Northridge earthquake in California, a magnitude 6.7 quake that became the most costly natural disaster in U.S. history. Was the Seattle area better prepared for a major earthquake than Los Angeles? Or was the discrepancy a result of differences in the earthquakes themselves? SCEC geologists say it is the latter. They believe much of the difference between the Nisqually and

the Northridge quakes can be attributed to the Nisqually earthquake's location-not that of its epicenter, but that of its depth, or hypocenter. The Northridge quake had a hypocentral depth of 11 miles, deep for a California earthquake, but shallow for other regions. Nisqually's depth was some 33 miles, making its center farther away from structures than at Northridge, explaining the differences in the two quakes' effects. [Cheryl Dybas]

Underground Infrastructure Vulnerable to Quakes The vast network of subterranean pipelines and cables that sustain our daily utility services are among the most vulnerable infrastructures to earthquakes, according to experts at the NSF-funded Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research at the University of Buffalo. In 1994, the Northridge, Calif., earthquake caused the most extensive damage to a U.S. water supply system since the famous 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The Los Angeles water delivery system required repairs at more than a thousand locations. In the recent Nisqually earthquake near Seattle, a hypocenter closer to the surface also would have resulted in extensive damage. The Buffalo research facility is using advanced technologies to recommend new construction and soil improvement techniques, and changes in design, operations and response procedures that could mitigate future damage. Researchers say such improvements could greatly benefit normal operations as well, by increasing efficiency, safety and reliability and reducing maintenance and repair costs. Among the center's tools is a digitized database of utility lines and repair sites in the Los Angeles area, assembled after the Northridge quake. The database, the largest on lifeline seismic performance ever assembled in the United States, provides a template for forecasting damage to pipes and modeling potential water supply losses in urban areas. [Amber Jones]

Scientists Look Further, See Deeper into Seattle "Nisqually" Quake After sustaining so little damage in its recent magnitude 6.8 earthquake, Seattle ought not to be lulled into a false sense of security, says scientist Meghan Miller. A geologist

at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington, Miller, with her colleagues at various institutions, is receiving NSF support to augment the Pacific Northwest Geodetic Array (PANGA). PANGA is a chain of continuous GPS (Global Positioning System) stations in the Puget Sound region that will allow scientists to discover more about the after-effects of the Nisqually quake. The PANGA instrument network provides scientists with information on the "slip" of active faults in the Seattle metropolitan region. Seven new stations will add to the more widely spaced existing network of 40 stations, which spans the region from northern California to the Canadian border, and from the West Coast as far east as Idaho and Nevada. "An essential element of long-term earthquake hazard mitigation is establishing and refining hazard maps," explains Miller, who testified on earthquake hazards before the House Science Subcommittee on Research. By better defining areas most susceptible to strong shaking, Miller says, future land-use planning can take this risk into account. "Seismic risk mitigation in this rapidly developing urban and suburban region will be greatly improved." [Cheryl Dybas]

Recon Teams Hit the Ground Running to Learn from Quakes Reconnaissance teams based at the University of Washington responded within hours of the recent Nisqually earthquake near Seattle. The teams surveyed damage and assessed how structures could be strengthened to mitigate future damage and to prevent injury in future seismic events. The University of Washington is a member of the NSF-supported Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research (PEER) Center headquartered at the University of California, Berkeley. Coordinated by the NSF-supported Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) in Oakland, Calif., such recon teams survey earthquake impacts worldwide as soon as possible after all major seismic events. The teams evaluate how buildings, lifelines (utilities, bridges and other civil infrastructure) and emergency systems performed and assess the social and economic effects. "Earthquakes serve as a virtual laboratory," says EERI executive director Susan Tubbesing. She says these events provide an opportunity to test theories and determine future research directions, including needed retrofits of buildings and structures and changes in emergency planning and response. The teams include structural, civil and geotechnical engineers, political

scientists, earth scientists, architects and economists. Earthquake researchers and engineers across the world can access their reports via the Internet. [Amber Jones] For the report on the Nisqually earthquake, see:

Seattle Quake Offers New Research Opportunities The Nisqually earthquake in February eventually led to the involvement of more than a dozen organizations, including NSF, to make critical early observations of the impacts and damage. Priscilla Nelson of NSF's engineering directorate represented NSF at a House Science Research Subcommittee hearing Mar 21. Nelson said that, based on preliminary conclusions of reconnaissance teams evaluating the Nisqually quake's impact, unique opportunities exist for future research. One such opportunity, Nelson said, was the chance to develop a database on direct and indirect losses that will permit focused evaluation of the economic impacts from nonstructural damage and disruptions to business. This information, assembled separately from the cost of significant structural impacts from catastrophic earthquakes such as Northridge, will be very important in making better predictions of economic losses, she said. "The Nisqually earthquake presents an opportunity for social sciences to study the implications of a non-catastrophic event for the public - in terms of whether to consider this a wake-up call for continued investment in retrofit and mitigation, or whether to make a 'quit claim' on success," she told the Congressional panel. Nelson also said that Nisqually will provide information for performance-based engineering design for levels other than catastrophic failure and loss of functionality. She said this experience would also allow for more explicit definition of risks for decisionmakers, property owners and the public. [Bill Noxon]

Virtual Displays Pinpoint Quake Centers Scientists today can use the latest in 3D graphics technology to pinpoint and visualize the precise location of earthquakes. An NSF-supported team from multiple institutions is developing the graphical computer simulations. Within hours of the 6.8-magnitude Seattle-area Nisqually quake that occurred Feb 28, the team had posted VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) model images on the web. The collaborators include geologists at the University of Minnesota and the University of Michigan, working with data visualization specialists at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The collaborations are supported through NSF's Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation program and the NSFsupported National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. [Tom Garritano] For the VRML images of Nisqually, see: