Abstract

The 2018 National Seismic Hazard Assessment of Australia incorporated 19 alternative seismic‐source models developed by members of the Australian seismological community. The diversity of these models demonstrates the deep epistemic uncertainty that exists with regards to how best to characterize seismicity in stable continental regions. In the face of similarly high uncertainty, a diverse range of ground‐motion models was proposed for use. A complex logic tree was developed to incorporate the alternative component models into a single hazard model. Expert opinion was drawn upon to weight the alternative logic‐tree branches through a structured expert elicitation process. Expert elicitation aims to transparently and reproducibly characterize the community distribution of expert estimates for uncertain quantities and thereby quantify the epistemic uncertainty around estimates of seismic hazard in Australia. We achieve a multimodel rational consensus in which each model, and each expert, is, in accordance with the Australian cultural myth of egalitarianism, given a “fair go”—that is, judged on their merits rather than their status. Yet despite this process, we find that the results are not universally accepted. A key issue is a contested boundary between what is scientifically reducible and what remains epistemologically uncertain, with a particular focus on the earthquake catalog. Furthermore, a reduction, on average, of 72% for the 10% in 50 yr probability of exceedance peak ground acceleration levels compared with those underpinning existing building design standards, challenges the choice of metrics upon which design codes are based. Both quantification of the bounds of epistemic uncertainties through expert elicitation and reduction of epistemic uncertainties through scientific advances have changed our understanding of how the hazard behaves. Dialog between scientists, engineers, and policy makers is required to ensure that as our understanding of the hazard evolves, the hazard metrics used to underpin risk management decisions are re‐evaluated to ensure societal aims are achieved.

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