Durham University

Department of Geography

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Modelling earthquakes to help save lives

(4 October 2018)

Researchers are trying to reduce the devastating effects of earthquakes by modelling them in a new way, allowing better planning for such disasters.

The new technique, known as ‘ensemble modelling’, can identify where the risks to life and property are greatest, by taking into account the vulnerability of communities and their position in relation to likely earthquakes.

Better choices

This could lead to better informed choices about where to allocate disaster risk reduction funds, which can be spent on measures such as making buildings safer, school safety programmes and public education.

Until now, seismic risk models have focussed on the earthquake hazard in terms of the amount of ground-shaking, considering either a worst-case scenario for communities (deterministic modelling) or all possible scenarios at a given site (probabilistic modelling).

The team is currently working to apply the model to areas of seismic risk across South East Asia and hopes to be able to partner humanitarian agencies to inform their work.

Who carried out the research?

Dr Tom Robinson, Department of Geography, led the study. He is also a member of the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience.

Where is the research published?

In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Also see Durham Research Online.

Who else was involved in the research?

The Durham team collaborated with Nepal’s National Society of Earthquake Technology. The research was funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme through the DIFeREns 2 COFUND scheme; the Addison Wheeler Fellowship at Durham University; and Earthquakes without Frontiers project.

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