Effective visualization for seismic hazard and aftershock forecast maps

Max Schneider


Date & Time
Online-only seminar via Microsoft Teams

Public communication for a region’s seismic hazard and aftershock forecasts is often done using maps. But the public products released by scientists are not always built with best practices in visualization or cartography, nor are they empirically validated with rigorous user experiments. In this talk, I will present several projects that investigate how different visualization approaches can affect public understanding of seismic hazard and aftershock risk. First, I consider how seismic hazard can be mapped to comply with research-backed best practices in color selection, legend design and classification of the continuous hazard distribution onto a discrete color map. I apply these best practices to redesign the German seismic hazard map and evaluate it against the original map in a controlled user experiment. The redesigned map improves perception of key principles of hazard, including that it is not spatially concentrated only around areas with previous earthquakes. Next, I evaluate the effectiveness of three techniques for displaying the uncertainty in aftershock forecast maps. In an experiment, participants perform a comparative judgment task, which measures whether a visualization can succeed in reaching two key communication goals: indicating where an aftershock is either highly likely or highly unlikely (“sure bets”) and where the forecast is low but the uncertainty is high enough to imply potential risk (“potential surprises”). All visualizations perform equally well in the goal of communicating “sure bet’’ situations. But the visualization that shows uncertainty using lower and upper bounds significantly outperforms the others at communicating “potential surprises.” I conclude with an outlook on my postdoctoral research on creating and testing visual products for aftershock forecasting at the USGS.

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