Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Most Americans subject to geologic hazards

Natural hazards losses exceed tens of billions of dollars each year in the U.S. and are growing as population centers develop more lands at high risk of geologic hazards. That's a conclusion from state geological surveys and the USGS meeting here in West Virginia. [right, highway SR87 landslide, south of Payson, 2008. Photo by Brian Gootee, AZGS]

That assessment is based on such factors as
  • Landslides and other slope failures occur in every state, causing billions in damage

  • 80 million Americans are subject to earthquakes
  • 52 volcanic eruptions occurred in U.S. in the last 200 years. These are in the West and Hawaii, but downwind impacts can affect large areas with big populations.

  • Hazardous minerals are a growing concern – i.e., radon gas, arsenic, asbestos, and mercury. More are being liberated to the environment as lands are being torn up for develoment.

The call is for geological surveys to provide more comprehensive community hazard assessments, increase our monitoring and assessment roles, and improve our education efforts with policy makers and the public. Recommendations are for state surveys to inventory all types of hazards and dollar loses, prepare hazard inventory maps, and to examine legislation for hazard mapping to define zones where geologic investigation is required before structures can be built

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