Unless they reside on the West Coast, many Americans may assume they are immune to the shaking and damage wreaked by a destructive earthquake. Well, earthquakes are actually more ubiquitous than people think. Kathryn Miles (Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy) explains why in her fascinating new book, Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake.
Earthquakes are one of the most mysterious and unpredictable of all natural disasters. As a scientific discipline, seismology is not only relatively new but also very frustrating, since seismologists “often can’t see what they are supposed to be studying.” And unlike disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes, earthquakes don’t appear to be limited to a certain geography or climate.
In vivid detail, Miles covers every facet of U.S. earthquakes, including what triggers them, the art of earthquake forecasting and damage rings. She traveled around the country to visit various sites that play a part in predicting earthquakes, their causes and readiness preparation. She discusses the status of America’s infrastructure and the likelihood of it withstanding a major seismic event—which is not good, considering the U.S. has averaged a grade “D” for the past 20 years.
Using statistics, definitions, real life accounts and expert interviews, Miles examines the “earthquakes that have already defined America and the ones that are still coming.” She discusses the numerous faults mapped by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), as well as the thousands still unidentified. Each represents a potential earthquake, yet scientists remain in the dark about if and when they will rupture. She raises some provocative points, such as the public health disruption and emotional stress caused by a major earthquake, and human activities like mining and fracking that can cause earthquakes to occur.
Quakeland is a mesmerizing, eye-opening read—not only for those interested in science but for anyone who wants to be better informed about these enigmatic phenomena.