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Earthquakes shake the ground beneath our feet and cause buildings, roads, homes, and other fixtures of our societies to crumble. The size or magnitude of earthquakes is determined by measuring the amplitude of the seismic waves recorded on a seismograph and the distance of the seismograph from the earthquake. A magnitude 8.6 earthquake releases energy equivalent to about 10 000 atomic bombs of the type developed in World War II. Fortunately, smaller earthquakes occur much more frequently than large ones and most cause little or no damage.

In assessing seismic hazard, we aim to relate earthquake occurrence to the effects at a site, typically in terms of ground shaking. By combining geological and seismological information, we build up a model of the earthquake-generating processes in a region and use this to compute the hazard. Evaluating seismic hazard aims to strengthen institutional capacity which includes the development of building codes, structural design and in assessing seismic risk.

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