International Partnership for Collaboration and Training in Earthquake Hazard Assessment and Mitigation in the Alpine-Himalayan Belt and Central Asia

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Earth Sciences

Abstract

As a series of high-impact earthquakes has made clear over the last few years, a stark contrast exists today between the effects of earthquakes in rich and developing nations. In terms of human life, the risk is overwhelmingly concentrated in the developing world, and predominantly in continental interiors, with the Alpine-Himalayan region and central Asia being particularly threatened. Many communities and cities in that region are known to be vulnerable because of past earthquakes, but now have considerably larger exposed populations.

A first, and essential, step in reducing that vulnerability is to improve the level of knowledge and characterization of the hazard concerned; which is far below, for example, California or Japan. That task requires the engagement of scientists in the countries concerned, but would be greatly aided by the expertise available in the international scientific community, even in countries where the local scientific base is already strong.

In particular, two geological effects contribute to continental Asia's special vulnerability. (1) Earthquakes in continental interiors typically occur on widely distributed faults that are poorly known and move relatively infrequently. By comparison, those on plate boundaries adjacent to oceans (such as Japan, Chile) occur on faults that are more localized, better known, and move more often. (2) Many human settlements in continental interiors concentrate (and then grow) in locations related to earthquake-generating faults, which control topography, water supply or trade routes.

Improving knowledge and understanding of the earthquake hazard is therefore inescapably linked to the first-order scientific question of how continental tectonics works - a cutting-edge priority at the highest level in international science, which also requires the full range of observational, theoretical and technical capabilities now available to the scientific community.

The issues involved in addressing earthquake hazard and earthquake science in the Alpine-Himalayan region and central Asia are therefore best tackled by international partnerships of scientists, which can help bring an appropriate mixture of expertise, technology, man-power and training to bear in each area or country. That is the point of the Partnership proposed here.

The UK-based investigators in this proposal, principally from COMET+ *, the BGS (British Geological Survey) and Durham, are in a unique position to lead this Partnership, having been engaged on the ground or remotely in nearly all the countries concerned for a decade or more. This proposal originates from that point being made by non-UK participants at an international workshop in 2011, held specifically to address issues related to increasing resilience to earthquake hazard.

This proposal is to facilitate the functioning of the Partnership through funding meetings, workshops and training activities, including a summer school and exchange visits, principally of young scientists between the UK and participating countries. The principal Project Partners, who will also contribute substantially to the costs, are Italy, Kazakhstan and China. Supporting members include Greece, Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Others may join later. The intention is that the benefits and functioning of the Partnership continue well beyond the duration of the IOF award.

*COMET+ is the Dynamic Earth and Geohazards Group of NERC's National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO): see (http://comet.nerc.ac.uk)

Planned Impact

Who will benefit?
The principles beneficiaries are:
1. The countries participating in the partnership.
2. The relations between UK government institutions, NGOs and foreign equivalents.
3. International institutions and organizations concerned with earthquake hazard.
4. The Insurance and Risk Industry concerned with earthquake hazard and catastrophe planning.
5. The wider public understanding of science.

How will they benefit?
The countries participating in the partnership include a number of government-funded or -run institutions charged with advising on earthquake risk, such the INGV (Italy), GSI (Iran), CEA (China), and Ministry of Emergencies (Kazakhstan). This proposal is to stimulate and enhance their earthquake science capabilities - but these organizations are well aware of the importance of that science in helping them with their government advisory roles (see supporting letters). Our scientific input will aid them in this important additional function, as will the experience we can bring of government and inter-government interaction through our colleagues in the British Geological Survey (BGS), including its Director and a KE Fellow.
Some UK institutions are likely to benefit through increased contacts and interaction with their overseas equivalents that are likely to lead to other cooperative activities or contracts. The most obvious is the BGS, which has a lot of experience and advice to offer countries concerned with enhancing their national capabilities, such as monitoring networks. They may well involve other UK institutions in this endeavour.
This project will provide input to international institutions and organizations concerned with earthquake hazard. The most obvious is the Global Earthquake Model (GEM), concerned with a global characterization of potentially earthquake-generating faults - essentially an international scientific data-gathering project. NERC and BGS are partners in GEM, and some COMET+ investigators are already contributing their own inputs on faults and countries they have been studying. Several of our overseas Partners are also their own national representatives on GEM, so there are multiple and clear links to make sure the new science from this Partnership, which will be highly relevant, is channelled effectively into the GEM project.
The Insurance and Risk Industry, both in the UK and overseas, is concerned with earthquake hazard and catastrophe planning. It is a principal driver behind the GEM project and is clearly interested in the constantly-evolving understanding of earthquake hazard. We are well connected to this industry through: (1) the BGS and NERC Council, which includes Mr. Rowan Douglas of Willis Re; (2) the COMET+ Advisory Board, which includes Dr. Andrew Coburn of Risk Management Solutions (RMS); (3) Prof. Robin Spence of Cambridge Architectural Research Ltd, who is a member of the Willis Research Network and on the Scientific Board of GEM.
Large, damaging earthquakes are rarely out of the news for long, and so the potential for engagement with the public understanding of science is considerable. There is a constant demand for COMET+ and BGS investigators to appear on radio and television broadcasts, to write articles in the popular press, and to give public lectures. All the investigators on this proposal are regularly engaged in this activity, even when the earthquake is not in a country where we work directly. The public appetite for informed, clear, understandable and jargon-free explanations of natural catastrophes is insatiable. Such events are virtually certain to occur during the duration of an IOF award. We will pursue energetically the opportunities to engage with the public through lectures, broadcasts, web sites and briefings to UK government agencies and NGOs.

Publications

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Copley A (2016) Fault rheology in an aseismic fold-thrust belt (Shahdad, eastern Iran) CREEPING FAULT RHEOLOGY in Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth

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Copley A (2018) The strength of earthquake-generating faults in Journal of the Geological Society

 
Description 2017: These projects have really come together in all three key areas of China, Nepal and Kazakhstan, with successful major meetings in China (Xian), Nepal (Kathmandu) in Kazakhstan (Almaty) this September. In each place the important interaction of physical and social science issues in determining effective policy approaches to Earthquake Risk Reduction have become clearer, and themes common to all these Asian circumstances have emerged, especially following the April 2015 Gorkha earthquake in Nepal, which occurred 2 weeks after our Kathmandu conference.


2015:
Highlights include:
(i) Identification and characterization of important large earthquake-generating faults in the Tien Shan mountains of Kazakhstan, including a likely candidate for the fault responsible for destroying Almaty and Chilik in 1889. Some of this work has already been published, or is in press, in international journals, and represents the first real modern state-of-the-art earthquake science in Kazakhstan since the break-up of the former Soviet Union. It therefore has had considerable local impact already, and provides an incentive and impetus that we hope will encourage further collaboration and development of local capability in the future.
(ii) Investigation of evidence for the uplift of the Rhodes coastline, leading to the conclusion that a major tsunami-generating earthquake was responsible about 3000 years ago. Analysis of that uplift has allowed the characterization of the likely earthquake and the better definition of the probable tsunami hazard associated with such events, which are quite rare. In an earlier study we demonstrated that a similar analysis in Crete allowed us to confirm the source of a tsunami that devastated the Nile delta in AD 365.
(iii) New insights into the relationship between surface folding and 'blind' thrust earthquakes (which fail to rupture to the surface) in the Zagros mountains of Iran. This was made possible through the creative combined use of space-based radar interferometry, land-based seismology and field work, and has consequences for oil exploration in this part of the Middle East.
(iv) Radar interferometric investigations of post-earthquake ground motions in Iran, leading to better understanding between earthquake motions and the generation of geological structures.
(v) Discovery of major new earthquake-generating faults within peninsula India (i.e. away from the Himalaya, which is much better known).
(vi) Various studies that use earthquake investigations to clarify the mechanical properties of plates and continental interiors.
Exploitation Route 2017:
All our work that clarifies the nature and distribution of earthquake hazard in Asia has impact when transmitted to policy- and decision-makers. In the end this improved knowledge can be turned into increased resilience (the whole point of the project) through a trusted dialogue between scientists and politicians or the public. There is no doubt that trust is won through the demonstration that we are engaged in high-quality state-of-the-art research with local partners who are also well-connected to the global scientific community. That trust can then be used to encourage scientists, politicians, the construction industry and the public to all take responsibility for actions that can be taken to increase resilience.
Sectors Education,Environment

URL http://ewf.nerc.ac.uk/
 
Description Our findings have been used to inform debates about earthquake hazard in vulnerable cities in Asia. In Iran, where our engagement has already been for more than 20 years, and where there is a strong bond of trust and understanding with local scientists, we were used to help reinforce the Geological Survey of Iran's (GSI) dialogue with the mayor of Tabriz and Governor of Azerbaijan province concerning the risk to Tabriz; a major city of 2M people that was destroyed twice in the 18th century. This dialogue led to adoption by GSI of a number of hard-hitting and uncompromising (and sensible) statements on their web site about the reality of the earthquake hazard in Iran. See: http://earthquake.conference.gsi.ir/en/contents/Closing-statements/Closing.statements.htm In Kazakhstan, which is far less advanced than Iran in earthquake science, a productive dialogue has started between the scientists in our partnership and the mayor of Almaty, the former capital which was destroyed in 1887, 1889 and 1911, in which the example of progress in Iran was very helpful. In September 2016 we organized an international conference/workshop on earthquakes in Central Asia in Almaty where we adopted the same approach as in Iran, resulting in similar sensible resolutions. In 2015-16 we worked with DFID and NERC to continue monitoring the situation in Nepal after the Kathamndu earthquake, advising government (COBR, G)-Science, DFID) on the continuing earthquake hazard.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Education,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Jammu, India, Nov 2016 Earthquake Hazard: Basic Approaches, Field Investigations and Modeling 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact One week training programme on Earthquake Hazard: Basic Approaches, Field Investigations and Modeling' at Kalika Dham, Jammu, India 10-16 Nov 2016. The programme was organised by the School of Innovation and Community Development, SMVD University with Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata, and Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge. Young scientists working in the area of earth sciences from National Institutions, Central and State Universities from India and University of Cambridge participated in the programme which comprised of lectures, interactions, hands on tutorials and field training. James Jackson, Keith Priestley and Alex Copley were among the mentors. In addition a series of lectures and talks were given by James Jackson on earthquake hazard and preparedness at the Indian Academy of Sciences and to municipal government officials/policymakers and the public in Jammu. He also gave several interviews for Indian media.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.dailyexcelsior.com/serb-programme-on-earthquake-hazard-concludes/
 
Description Kathmandu, Nepal, EwF workshop, April 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Two weeks before the 25 April 2016 Gorkha (Nepal) earthquake, the EwF project ran a meeting/workshop in Kathmandu, bringing together earthquake scientists, social scientists and policy experts to share expertise and experience and work towards increasing resilience to earthquakes in the Alpine-Himalayan-central Asian earthquake belt. Partner-delegates came from Iran, Kazakhstan, India, and China as well as Nepal. It was a coincidence that EwF meeting was just prior to the 2016 earthquake. With the current state of scientific knowledge we cannot predict or forecast the time or dates of earthquakes, beyond saying that where they have happened in the past they will happen again in the future. The understanding that Kathmandu was at considerable risk has been a well-publicized fact for many decades, certainly since the last very big one in 1934. One aim of the meeting was that our partners from outside Nepal could learn from the Nepalese experience of building resilience from the bottom up. The relationships and experiences formed at that meeting helped increase public awareness in their own countries, once the earthquake happened. One consequence was an EwF follow-up meeting in Tehran, at the request of our Iranian partners.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Kazakhstan Feb 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact For discussions with the Yessenov Foundation (a charity), the Institute of Seismology (Academy of Sciences), and the mayor's office in Almaty (former capital of Kazakhstan, destroyed by earthquakes in 1887, 1889, 1911), who are co-sponsors of an EwF meeting to raise awareness of earthquake safety and hazard in Kazakhstan in September 2016.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Meeting with Ambassador of Kazakhstan 6 June 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Meeting with the Ambassador of Kazakhstan in London on 6 May 2015 to brief him on EWF's involvement with earthquake sciences and risk mitigation in Kazakhstan and about our collaboration with Kazakh scientists.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Meeting with High Commissioner of India, London, 28 April 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Meeting with the High Commissioner of India on 28 April 2015 to brief him about EwF's involvement with earthquake sciences and risk mitigation in India and about our collaboration with Indian scientists.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Post April 2015 Gorkha, Nepal, earthquake media response 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact In the week following the April 2015 Nepal earthquake, EwF personnel gave over 70 interviews to national and international media, explaining what had happened, the context and the nature of earthquake hazard in the Himalaya. We also connected the media with EwF partners in Nepal and India, mostly NGOs, who were involved both in the pre-earthquake preparation and education of the public and in the post-earthquake relief operations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Talk to Arup, London, 30 June 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An invited presentation to the geotechnical group of Arup consulting engineers (London) on recent advances in understanding earthquakes in continental interiors.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Turkemenistan September 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact To establish relations and collaboration with the Academy of Sciences in Turkmenistan, whose capital Ashgabat was destroyed in an earthquake in 1948, killing 100,000. We plan joint fieldwork on the Ashgabat Fault, thought to have been responsible for the 1948 earthquake, in May 2016. (Turkmenistan has been virtually closed to outside interactions fro at least 20 years: this would be a major step, if it comes off).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Understanding earthquakes, mitigating risks, Un World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, Sendai, Japan, conference blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact UN World Conference blog.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.wcdrr.org/blogs
 
Description Visit to Iran May 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This was a workshop and conference on earthquake science and hazard evaluation, run by EwF at the Geological Survey of Iran. Two days of research talks, attended by 100+ Iranian scientists, followed by 5 days of lectures and practical demonstrations, attended by over 50 Iranian graduate students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015