ShakeMap operations, policies, and procedures

Earthquake Spectra
By: , and 



The US Geological Survey’s ShakeMap is used domestically and globally for post-earthquake emergency management and response, engineering analyses, financial instruments, and other decision-making activities. Recent developments in the insurance, reinsurance, and catastrophe bond sectors link payouts of potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to ShakeMap products. Similarly, building codes, post-earthquake building damage forensic evaluations, and geotechnical evaluations often rely on estimated peak response-spectral values for site-specific evaluations that may lead to costly analyses, retrofits, or other expenditures. Given such activities, financial, engineering, and other technical users demand processing specifications and a metadata trail for actuarial, escrow, and forensic purposes for each significant earthquake. Recent inquiries include how and why maps change with time, how to interpret metadata, and how to obtain the creation and update history of various map layers. Similarly, the collection of ShakeMap scenarios and historical ShakeMaps—either created in earlier versions or rerun as part of the latest version of the ShakeMap Atlas—warrant a full explanation of the inputs, processing, and archiving given their contribution to fragility curve development and loss model calibration. For these reasons, in addition to event-specific ShakeMap metadata and a comprehensive online ShakeMap Manual, we have crafted this practice paper to answer several of the most frequently asked technical questions. We also describe an application programming interface (API) for accessing site-specific shaking metrics and their uncertainties for earthquake forensic purposes in a consistent fashion. In all, we describe the advantages of employing ShakeMaps for these critical purposes as well as describe their limitations and uncertainties, offering an extensive set of instructions and disclaimers that can be referenced by ShakeMap users.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title ShakeMap operations, policies, and procedures
Series title Earthquake Spectra
DOI 10.1177/87552930211030298
Edition Online First
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher Sage Journals
Contributing office(s) Geologic Hazards Science Center
Country United States
State California
City Napa
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details