Earthquake Response

photo taken from a helicopter
California Highway Patrol assisting USGS geologist in aerial survey of 2014 South Napa Earthquake.

USGS geologists respond to damaging earthquakes in active tectonic regions of the United States and around the world, rapidly providing critical information to stakeholders. Earthquake response activities include rapid assessment of landscape change (including mapping and measuring the locations and amount of offset caused by faults rupturing the Earth’s surface), identifying ground failure and liquefaction, and mapping landslides. On-the-ground investigations are complemented by airborne surveys, rapid 3D laser scanning, and rapid acquisition and analysis of remote imagery to study inaccessible regions.

Additional activities include quantifying and forecasting ongoing post-seismic deformation, identifying locations where critical infrastructure may be damaged, and providing assessment of ongoing hazards to critical infrastructure.

USGS is able to provide information quickly to all levels of government, utilities, media and citizens about earthquake effects and ongoing hazards. Observations and data collected immediately following a damaging earthquakes helps scientists determine ongoing hazard and also allows them to better understand earthquake process and effects which then guides assessment of future hazard.

Damage resulting from the August 2014 South Napa Earthquake as observed from USGS rapid-response overflight operation.
USGS mobile laser scanner surveying surface deformation following the 2014 South Napa Earthquake.
USGS geologists and their collaborators have studied active transform faults in Mongolia similar to those in the western United States. These faults have generated large damaging earthquakes in the past and USGS geologists have helped to determine the level of ongoing hazard posed by these large faults.
USGS geologists analyzing the evidence for past earthquakes in an excavation along the Septentrional fault in the Dominican Republic.
USGS scientists and collaborators from a local university host visitors from around the Dominican Republic to a paleoseismic investigation as part of a technical training workshop.