The seismic hazard and earthquake occurrence rates in Hawaii are locally as high as that near the most hazardous faults elsewhere in the United States. We have generated maps of peak ground acceleration (PGA) and spectral acceleration (SA) (at 0.2, 0.3 and 1.0 sec, 5% critical damping) at 2% and 10% exceedance probabilities in 50 years. The highest hazard is on the south side of Hawaii Island, as indicated by the MI 7.0, MS 7.2, and MI 7.9 earthquakes, which occurred there since 1868. Probabilistic values of horizontal PGA (2% in 50 years) on Hawaii's south coast exceed 1.75g.
Because some large earthquake aftershock zones and the geometry of flank blocks slipping on subhorizontal decollement faults are known, we use a combination of spatially uniform sources in active flank blocks and smoothed seismicity in other areas to model seismicity. Rates of earthquakes are derived from magnitude distributions of the modern (1959–1997) catalog of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory's seismic network supplemented by the historic (1868–1959) catalog. Modern magnitudes are ML measured on a Wood-Anderson seismograph or MS. Historic magnitudes may add ML measured on a Milne-Shaw or Bosch-Omori seismograph or MI derived from calibrated areas of MM intensities.
Active flank areas, which by far account for the highest hazard, are characterized by distributions with b slopes of about 1.0 below M 5.0 and about 0.6 above M 5.0. The kinked distribution means that large earthquake rates would be grossly underestimated by extrapolating small earthquake rates, and that longer catalogs are essential for estimating or verifying the rates of large earthquakes. Flank earthquakes thus follow a semicharacteristic model, which is a combination of background seismicity and an excess number of large earthquakes. Flank earthquakes are geometrically confined to rupture zones on the volcano flanks by barriers such as rift zones and the seaward edge of the volcano, which may be expressed by a magnitude distribution similar to that including characteristic earthquakes.
The island chain northwest of Hawaii Island is seismically and volcanically much less active. We model its seismic hazard with a combination of a linearly decaying ramp fit to the cataloged seismicity and spatially smoothed seismicity with a smoothing half-width of 10 km. We use a combination of up to four attenuation relations for each map because for either PGA or SA, there is no single relation that represents ground motion for all distance and magnitude ranges. Great slumps and landslides visible on the ocean floor correspond to catastrophes with effective energy magnitudes ME above 8.0. A crude estimate of their frequency suggests that the probabilistic earthquake hazard is at least an order of magnitude higher for flank earthquakes than that from submarine slumps.