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Computation supports National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, House finds value in NEHRP model for mitigating other disasters

Last week the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation held a hearing on the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) in preparation for a new bill reauthorizing the program (the current authorization expires on Sep 30). From the Committee on Science and Technology’s website

“It is vital that we examine programs like this closely, since earthquakes and other natural threats can be devastating in their impact,” stated Subcommittee Chairman David Wu (D-OR). “For example, in the United States, wind and fire cause approximately $28 billion worth of damages and kill an average of 4,350 Americans each year. We can and must do a better job of hazards mitigation in order to protect our communities as much as possible from the devastation these disasters can cause.”

You care because parts of the earthquake prediction process are HPC jobs (see, for example, slide 16 of this presentation from 2007 to members of the House). The 2008 annual report also contains references to the program’s involvement with HPC, both direct and, in this example of the development of large scale dedicated resources, indirect

In 2007, the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) began its third phase, a 5-year program supported primarily by the NSF and the USGS. SCEC is headquartered at the University of Southern California and unites 15 core institutions and 39 participating institutions in a “collaboratory” with a threefold mission: (1) gather data on earthquakes in southern California; (2) integrate these data and other information into a comprehensive, physics-based understanding of earthquake phenomena; and (3) communicate this understanding to the community at large as useful knowledge for reducing earthquake risk. In addition to core funding in 2007, the NSF provided support to SCEC to advance seismic hazard research using high-performance computing, with the aim of utilizing peta-scale computing facilities when they become available in the 2010– 2011 timeframe. (www.scec.org)

You also (should) care because the NEHRP has evidently done well, and might be a model to help fix the inadequacies of similar efforts to deal with other disasters.

Although the latest NEHRP authorization in 2004 also included a title creating the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program (NWIRP), research for wind and other hazards is not yet produced the similar results.

“We’ve found that federal agencies currently have a stovepipe approach to hazards mitigation research activities,” said Wu.  “Separate and distinct programs exist for earthquake, tsunami, fire, and wind threats, despite areas of commonality such as prediction research, emergency preparedness needs, and the potential for mitigation via enhanced construction codes.  It is worth exploring whether a coordinated, comprehensive, and fully funded hazards mitigation program could be a more effective approach than the current stovepipe structure, where different hazards communities fight for their own funding priorities and lessons learned are less likely to be shared between those researching various threats.”

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