Public Release: 

Princeton students reveal U.S.'s natural hazard risk

American Institute of Physics

For the first time, natural hazard data from across the entire United States has been combined into a comprehensive hazard map revealing the areas most at risk for natural hazards. The map was prepared by Princeton University geoscience students in a course taught by Gregory van der Vink, Director of Planning for Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology. The poster, entitled "U.S. Vulnerability to Natural Disasters," was presented at the recent American Geophysical Union meeting in Washington, DC.

"This is the first time that these individual hazards have been collected together to demonstrate the natural hazard risks for the entire U.S.," says van der Vink, "The students realized that to reduce the costs on natural disasters, we need to demonstrate that these are not random events and we need to increase awareness about the predictable consequences of high-risk land-use."

The hazard map includes information from all fifty states about flooding, earthquakes, tornados, hurricane tracks, population growth, and the costs of these events.

"We found that the cost of natural hazard events was driven by large events such as hurricane Andrew and the Northridge earthquake," says van der Vink, "We also noticed a 30-year east to west oscillation in hurricane tracks, which means according to our data, hurricane tracks may be moving more east and north in the coming years."

While some of the data were collected by previous classes, the majority of the data were gathered during the Fall semester. The data indicated that the costs of disasters are increasing due to increases in population and wealth density in disaster prone areas.

The map was created for the Congressional Hazards Caucus. The Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus is interested in disseminating this information throughout the U.S. in order to help states at higher risk to receive the necessary funds to mitigate against future disasters.

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For more information contact:
Emilie Lorditch
American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3029
elorditc@aip.org

Expert:
Gregory van der Vink
Director of Planning
Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology
202-682-2220
gvdv@iris.edu

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