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Earthquake Time Bombs

  • Draws comparisons between the capacity of first-world and developing-world countries to prepare for a major earthquake
  • Combines science with history to present a detailed, informative, and timely study of the world's earthquake time bombs
  • Explores how the combination of mass migration to megacities coupled with poor building standards is putting ever more people at risk

By: Robert S Yeats(Author)

346 pages, 68 b/w photos and b/w illustrations

Cambridge University Press

Hardback | Nov 2015 | #225513 | ISBN-13: 9781107085244
Availability: In stock
NHBS Price: £19.99 $26/€22 approx

About this book

In a media interview in January 2010, scientist Robert Yeats sounded the alarm on Port-au-Prince, Haiti, as an 'earthquake time bomb', a region at critical risk of major seismic activity. One week later, a catastrophic earthquake struck the city, leaving over 100,000 dead and triggering a humanitarian crisis. In this timely study, Yeats sheds new light on other earthquake hotspots around the world and the communities at risk. He examines these seismic threats in the context of recent cultural history, including economic development, national politics and international conflicts. Descriptions of emerging seismic resilience plans from some cities provide a more hopeful picture. Essential reading for policy-makers, infrastructure and emergency planners, scientists, students and anyone living in the shadow of an earthquake, Earthquake Time Bombs raises the alarm so that we can protect our vulnerable cities before it's too late.

"This book highlights the appalling reality of the threat to the world's growing population that is exposed to earthquakes, especially those concentrated in vulnerable megacities. The recent calamities of the earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal are simply foretastes of what is to come, unless decisive action is taken. It is written by someone perhaps uniquely qualified to do so: an earthquake scientist whose long and personal engagement with many of the cities he writes about is accompanied by an extremely well informed, up-to-date and widely respected grasp of his subject. It is written in an easy semi-populist, non-technical style that will make it accessible to non-specialists, but with the completely convincing authority and balance that accompanies an author who is utterly confident and secure in his knowledge. It is an impressive achievement to distil decades of global scientific effort into a compelling narrative and call to action."
– James Jackson, University of Cambridge

"An excellent and very timely book! Professor Yeats places the disaster potential of urban earthquakes within a varied context of history, local culture, public planning and politics, in a comparative manner. He presents a massive amount of information in a clear, concise, and readable style, which will be of interest to anyone working on mitigating the urban earthquake risk on a global scale. The book is also a must-read for policymakers, city administrators, risk managers, emergency planners, scientists and students."
– Mustafa Erdik, Bogaziçi University, Istanbul

"In Earthquake Time Bombs, Yeats provides the proverbial wake-up call for earthquake-prone major cities around the world. History, politics, economics, and seismology are interwoven in order to demonstrate the unique challenges each city faces, as well as the lessons to be shared with the others. This book should be required reading for both public and private sector leaders in these cities, heads of international development agencies and multinational corporations, students and practitioners of earthquake science and engineering, and others who may implement existing solutions or develop innovative approaches for diffusing at least some of these bombs before it's too late."
– Mark Benthien, Director of Communication, Education and Outreach, Southern California Earthquake Center, and Global Coordinator, Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills

"[...] [the] style of writing is very engaging and the reader feels privileged to accompany Yeats in these important reconnaissance trips and to share his thoughts and observations [...] fascinating and well worth reading [...]"
– Risa Palm, The AAG Review of Books


Part I. Earthquakes, Deep Time and the Population Explosion:
1. Plate tectonics and why we have earthquakes
2. An earthquake primer
3. Deep time
4. When's the next big one?
5. Population explosion and increased earthquake risk to megacities

Part II. Earthquake Time Bombs:
6. San Francisco Bay Area
7. Los Angeles metro area
8. Seattle, Portland and Vancouver
9. Wellington, New Zealand
10. Santiago, Chile
11. Prologue in Central China
12. Age of Enlightenment and the 1755 Lisbon earthquake
13. Jerusalem
14. Istanbul
15. Tehran
16. Kabul
17. Earthquakes in the Himalaya
18. Myanmar and the Sagaing Fault
19. Metro Manila, the Philippines
20. Lima, Peru
21. Andean earthquakes in Quito and Guayaquil, Ecuador
22. Caracas
23. Haiti (which lost its gamble), and Jamaica and Cuba (not yet)
24. Mexico City
25. Central America and the earthquake that brought down a dictator
26. East African Rift Valley

Part III. Summary and Recommendations
27. Where do we go from here?


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Robert Yeats is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Geological Society of America. He is senior consultant and partner in Earth Consultants International, an international firm focusing on earthquake hazards, and also an Emeritus Professor at Oregon State University, where an endowed professorship has been named in his honour. He has decades of experience in earthquake geology worldwide, including acting as chair of an active fault working group of the International Lithosphere Program for several years and writing four previous books: Geology of Earthquakes (with Kerry Sieh and Clarence R. Allen), Living with Earthquakes in California, Living with Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest, and Active Faults of the World.

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