With the increasing use of probabilistic seismic hazard assessment (PSHA) in building codes, bridge design, loss studies, setting of insurance premiums, etc., it is evident that an improved understanding of this method and its implications would be helpful to nonpractitioners. In this article I explain one result of PSHA that has caused confusion: how seismic hazard at low probability levels can be similar, for some ground-motion parameters, in the vicinity of the New Madrid seismic zone in the central U.S. to the hazard in parts of California, despite the different earthquake recurrence rates in the two areas. The short answer...

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