New earthquake risk model could better inform disaster planning

Researchers have developed a new way to model seismic risk, which they hope will better inform disaster risk reduction planning in earthquake-prone areas. The study, which is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and was led by academics from Durham University's Department of Geography, has developed a methodology that assesses seismic risk by looking at multiple earthquake scenarios and identifying impacts that are common to multiple scenarios.

This approach, which the team calls 'ensemble modelling', allows the researchers to estimate whether particular impacts are specific to certain earthquakes, or occur irrespective of the location or magnitude of an earthquake.

The team hopes that this method will provide contingency planners with a more complete picture of earthquake risk and potentially help guide the use of limited resources available for earthquake risk reduction.

The ensemble modelling method is novel as it goes beyond the standard probabilistic (identifying all possible earthquake scenarios at a given site) and deterministic (worst-case-event) approaches, focusing instead on the impacts of multiple possible earthquake scenarios.

Dr Tom Robinson, Durham University Department of Geography, said: "Earthquakes remain one of the deadliest natural hazards in the world and are a significant planning challenge for governments and aid agencies.

"Traditional assessments of seismic risk focus primarily on improving understanding of earthquake hazard, in terms of potential ground shaking but for contingency planning, it is the potential impacts of an earthquake that are of more importance.

"Our method provides critical information on the likelihood, and probable scale, of impacts in future earthquakes.

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