Global Earthquake Fatalities Expected To Rise This Century, Says CU-Boulder Geologist

May 19, 2008

Earthquake expert and geological sciences Professor Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado at Boulder says unprecedented human fatalities from earthquakes will occur around the globe in the coming century unless significant earthquake-resistant building codes are implemented.

Bilham, who has worked extensively in the Himalaya, anticipates that the death toll from the May 12 magnitude 7.9 Sichuan Province earthquake in China may exceed 50,000 based on previous similar earthquakes in urban settings. According to May 16 reports by the Associated Press, the event damaged or destroyed 4 million apartments and homes and thousands of schools.

Bilham said there were 43 "supercities" on Earth with populations from 2 million to more than 15 million in 1950, but there are nearly 200 today. Roughly 8 million people have died globally as a result of building collapses during earthquakes in the past 1,000 years. A four-fold increase in the annual death toll from earthquakes between the 17th and 20th centuries is linked to increased urbanization, he said.

Half the world's supercities now are located near potential future magnitude 7.5 earthquakes, said Bilham, who is also a fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. By the year 2025 more than 5.5 billion people will live in cities -- more than the entire 1990 combined rural and urban population. While large earthquakes over magnitude 7.5 have for the most part spared the world's major cities in the last century, this pattern will not persist indefinitely, he said.

"After the Earth Quakes," a 2006 book authored by the U.S. Geological Survey's Susan Hough and Bilham and published by Oxford University Press, looks at the collision between global urban construction and earthquake destruction.

Source: University of Colorado

Explore further: NASA radar system surveys Napa Valley quake area

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Geologists warn of mega quake for north Chile

Aug 14, 2014

North Chile is at risk of a mega earthquake after a tremor in April released only some of the tension building along a high-risk fault zone since 1877, researchers said Wednesday.

Oso disaster had its roots in earlier landslides

Jul 23, 2014

The disastrous March 22 landslide that killed 43 people in the rural Washington state community of Oso involved the "remobilization" of a 2006 landslide on the same hillside, a new federally sponsored geological study concludes.

New view of Rainier's volcanic plumbing

Jul 17, 2014

By measuring how fast Earth conducts electricity and seismic waves, a University of Utah researcher and colleagues made a detailed picture of Mount Rainier's deep volcanic plumbing and partly molten rock ...

Recommended for you

NASA radar system surveys Napa Valley quake area

5 hours ago

NASA scientists are conducting an airborne survey of earthquake fault displacements in the Napa Valley area of Northern California using a sophisticated radar system developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, ...

Aging Africa

Aug 29, 2014

In the September issue of GSA Today, Paul Bierman of the University of Vermont–Burlington and colleagues present a cosmogenic view of erosion, relief generation, and the age of faulting in southernmost Africa ...

NASA animation shows Hurricane Marie winding down

Aug 29, 2014

NOAA's GOES-West satellite keeps a continuous eye on the Eastern Pacific and has been covering Hurricane Marie since birth. NASA's GOES Project uses NOAA data and creates animations and did so to show the end of Hurricane ...

User comments : 0