Disaster Deferred:
How New Science is Changing our View
of Earthquake Hazards in the Midwest
Columbia University Press, 2010


In the winter of 1811-1812, a series of large earthquakes in the New Madrid seismic zone, often incorrectly described as the biggest ever to hit the United States, shook the Midwest. Today the federal government ranks the hazard in the Midwest as high as California's and is pressuring communities to undertake expensive preparations for disaster.

Coinciding with the two-hundredth anniversary of the New Madrid earthquakes, Disaster Deferred revisits these earthquakes, the legends that have grown about them, and the predictions of doom that have followed in their wake. The book explains the techniques seismologists use to study Midwestern quakes and estimate their danger. Detailing how limited scientific knowledge, bureaucratic instincts, and the media's love of a good story have exaggerated these hazards, Disaster Deferred calmly debunks the hype surrounding such predictions and discusses a more sensible, less costly policy. The book explains how new geological ideas and data, including those from the Global Positioning System, are painting a very different and much less frightening picture of the future.

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St. Louis Post Dispatch article

Lecture series based on the book: Teaching about New Madrid earthquakes: science and hazards
including figures from the book, class activities, and additional material

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