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Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience

Earthquakes without Frontiers

A partnership for increasing resilience to seismic hazards in the continents

Between 2 and 2.5 million people have died in earthquakes since 1900. Approximately two-thirds of those deaths occurred in earthquakes in the middle of the continents, where large seismic events are rare but can cause tremendous loss of life. Advances in the scientific understanding of earthquakes have been translated into impressive resilience to earthquakes in places where the hazard is well understood – such as the US and Japan. Yet comparable advances have not taken place in most parts of the continents, especially across the mountain ranges that extend from the Alps in the west to the Himalayas in the east, where the hazard is still poorly understood.

In response to this scientific and societal challenge, the multidisciplinary project Earthquakes without Frontiers was formed to study the physical environment of the continental interiors, but also the vulnerabilities of communities who live in these areas, including their resilience to disasters, in order to better inform government policy and help save lives.

Earthquakes without Frontiers is a £3.5 million 5-year international partnership funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Led by Prof James Jackson at Cambridge University, the project involves natural and social scientists from Durham, supported through the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, and researchers from Hull, Leeds, Northumbria, and Oxford universities as well as the Overseas Development Institute, the British Geological Survey, and the National Centre of Earth Observation. The project also involves partners in China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Iran, and Nepal.

Earthquakes without Frontiers has three overarching objectives:

  • To provide transformational increases in knowledge of the primary and secondary earthquake hazards in the continental interiors.
  • To identify pathways to increased resilience in the populations exposed to those hazards.
  • To secure these gains over the long-term by establishing a well-networked, trans-disciplinary partnership for increasing resilience to future earthquakes Researchers based at Durham University through the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience are Prof Alex Densmore, Prof Dave Petley, Prof Lena Dominelli, Dr Katie Oven and Prof Jonathan Rigg.

Image: The top image shows earthquakes that have occurred along the Alpine-Himalayan mountain ranges in the 20th century – red dots are those of magnitude 6 or greater. The bottom panel shows the population density in areas at risk of major (magnitude 6 or greater) earthquakes, along with the locations of cities with more than 500,000 people. Areas outlined in red are the focus of the project.