Remembering Northridge and Kobe earthquakes and Call for a Year of Data Collection

January 17, 2024

Northridge earthquake damage imageMajor advances in earthquake engineering have generally occurred because of significant earthquake events. Today marks the anniversary of two such events. At 4:31 am Pacific Time on January 17, 1994, the Northridge Earthquake, a magnitude 6.7 event, occurred in the San Fernando Valley with a duration of 10-20 seconds. The death toll was 57, and the property damage was estimated to be as high as nearly $100 billion (in 2024 dollars), making it the costliest natural disaster in US history. The greater Los Angeles area suffered widespread disruptions in the weeks and months following the earthquake. A year later, at 05:47 am Japan Time, the Great Hanshin Earthquake, a magnitude 6.9 event that occurred close to Kobe, Japan, With over 6,400 lives lost, it was Japan’s second deadliest earthquake of the 20th century (after the Great Kanto earthquake and fire).

Occurring exactly one year apart, these two earthquakes led to paradigm shifts in earthquake engineering, contributed to decades of research, start of performance-based engineering, advances in design, development of codes, reforms in insurance industry, and improvements to public policy. PEER is planning a series of workshops, webinars and articles over the next 12 months to review the lessons learned and evaluate the challenges ahead in a wide range of topics such as seismic hazard analysis, building performance, bridge performance, code development, public policy, insurance reforms, disaster mitigation, risk modeling and seismic retrofit. The first one of these will be the PEER-LBNL workshop on January 18 & 19, 2024, focused on simulated ground motions.

Kobe earthquake damage imageIn addition, PEER is initiating a data collection effort during the coming one-year period between 1/17/2024 and 1/17/2025. This will leverage PEER’s past experience in cosponsoring the Northridge20 Symposium in 2014, and organizing the 2019 Annual Meeting focused on Northridge earthquake. A dedicated page will be developed on the PEER website for this purpose and the PEER community will be invited to contribute. The contributions can be in multiple categories, including, but not limited to, (a) policy changes, (b) research motivated by these events in structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, ground motions, and seismology, (c) achievements in the past 30 years, e.g., the number and types of retrofitted structures, and (d) remaining research gaps, needs and problems. The contributions can also be in multiple modalities, including (i) publications with broader impacts, (ii) links to supporting public data from experiments, instrumented structures, ground motions, numerical simulations, and available codes, and (iii) relevant photographs and videos.

These materials, the developed webpage, and the database will provide valuable references for researchers, practicing engineers, and policy makers for developing effective solutions to be ready for earthquakes that continue to occur in the U.S., Japan, and other parts of the world. Please monitor the PEER Newsletter for future webinars and articles.