Loma Prieta Earthquake Professional Papers

The four Loma Prieta Earthquake Professional Papers, which were published as multiple chapters, comprehensively document the magnitude 6.9 earthquake in California that shook the San Francisco and Monterey Bay regions on October 17, 1989. They contain almost 3000 pages written by 401 investigators of the earthquake. The investigations were funded by a special Congressional appropriation to the U.S. Geological Survey and National Science Foundation after the earthquake to improve understanding of both the complexity of earthquakes and how society can reduce losses in future earthquakes. PDF’s of individual chapters can be downloaded by clicking on the appropriate professional paper below. Paper copies can be purchased at http://store.usgs.gov.

Professional Paper 1550 – Earthquake Occurrence

William H. Bakun and William H. Prescott, editors

1989 seismogram

Professional Paper 1550 seeks to understand the M6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake itself. It examines how the fault that generated the earthquake ruptured, searches for and evaluates precursors that may have indicated an earthquake was coming, reviews forecasts of the earthquake, and describes the geology of the earthquake area and the crustal forces that affect this geology. Some significant findings were:


Professional Paper 1551 - Strong ground motion and ground failure

Thomas L. Holzer, editor

photo of earthquake rupture

Professional Paper 1551 describes the effects at the land surface caused by the Loma Prieta earthquake. These effects: include the pattern and characteristics of strong ground shaking, liquefaction of both floodplain deposits along the Pajaro and Salinas Rivers in the Monterey Bay region and sandy artificial fills along the margins of San Francisco Bay, landslides in the epicentral region, and increased stream flow. Some significant findings and their impacts were:


Professional Paper 1552 – Performance of the Built Environment

Thomas L. Holzer, editor

photo of damaged buildings

Professional Paper 1552 focuses on the response of buildings, lifelines, highway systems, and earth structures to the earthquake. Losses to these systems totaled approximated $5.9 billion. The earthquake displaced many residents from their homes and severely disrupted transportation systems. Some significant findings were:


Professional Paper 1553 – Societal Response

Dennis S. Mileti, editor

photo of rescue crews

Professional Paper 1553 describes how people and organizations responded to the earthquake and how the earthquake impacted people and society. The investigations evaluate the tools available to the research community to measure the nature, extent, and causes of damage and losses. They describe human behavior during and immediately after the earthquake and how citizens participated in emergency response. They review the challenges confronted by police and fire departments and disruptions to transbay transportations systems. And they survey the challenges of post-earthquake recovery. Some significant findings were: