Lead Research Organisation: NERC British Geological Survey
Department Name: Earth Hazards & Observatories


On 24/08/2016, 01:36:33 UTC an earthquake of magnitude M=6.2 occurred at Norcia, Italy, killing more than 290 people, injuring 500 more, and leaving some 2,500 local inhabitants without a home. The earthquake resulted from movement on a normal fault in the Apennines mountain chain that runs along the Italian peninsula. Large destructive earthquakes of similar rupture style have occurred throughout this region in the past, most recently the 2009 M=6.4 L'Aquila event, 43 km S of the recent epicenter.

Immediately after the Norcia earthquake, a UK scientific team led by the British Geological Survey, together with the University of Edinburgh, coordinated with the Instituto Nationale Geophysica e Vulcanologia (INGV) to enable the deployment of a high -density temporary seismic network to study the aftershock sequence. To date, 26 UK seismic recording stations are fully integrated with the INGV network and this will enable a high-accuracy updated earthquake catalogue to be derived with a greater regional coverage and improved magnitude sensitivity.

The dataset collected within the next 6 months will be the basis of the development of aftershock forecast models and their transparent testing following international protocols. Aftershock forecasts are based on our understanding of earthquake triggering mechanisms and the empirical knowledge from previous aftershock sequence in the broader region. A validation of our forecasts using widely accepted statistical metrics is necessary in order to determine the strengths and weaknesses behind our triggering hypothesis and ensure that new knowledge will be passed on to improve operational aftershock forecasting world-wide.

Planned Impact

Operational earthquake forecasting benefits wider society in affected areas primarily by supporting decision makers on the ground at times when felt aftershocks continue to rattle the population. It can also aid in increase awareness of the risks on different timescales, and hence can help to promote the development of resilience to future events.

Our research will engage a range of professionals working at the interface between research and impact in the British Isles, including social scientists, educationalists and humanities researchers and the humanitarian organisations they are already engaged with. The network already has an established track record of applying contemporary earthquake science to emergency earthquake response. It has, at its heart, the aim of doing world-leading research and using it to increase the resilience of earthquake-threatened communities. The overall practical aim in our proposal is to improve current practice in operational forecasting, in consultation with a variety of end users, so the results can be transferred quickly to operational utility, and used ultimately to support decision-making in a crisis. Such Impact is at the core of our scientific motivation. We will continue to engage with NGO Concern Worldwide, since their input and collaboration over the last years has helped constrain our research focus and continues to shape our thinking, and seek to develop and extend this best practice in collaboration with NGOs to other organisations. We will also seek to engage with decision makers with delegated authority from Government, on issues of policy development and practical implementation of Operational Forecasting at a special Impact-dedicated event involving the Italian Department of Civil Protection (DPC) and the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) in Italy. This will explicitly include discussion on how the scientific discoveries and outputs could be further used to increase resilience in a post-disaster environment.


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