Probability and Uncertainty in Risk Estimation and Communication

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Statistical Science

Abstract

Our overall aim is to build earthquake resilience in China by improving (a) the assessment of seismic hazard and risk from earthquakes and consequent events and (b) the communication and use of probabilistic information in the development of more proportionate and risk-based strategies for disaster risk reduction. We will build on and extend a recently-developed historical catalogue for earthquakes, extend it for the first time to include consequent events (landslides, debris/mud-flows, outburst floods), unify this new database with modern instrumental data, use state-of the art statistical techniques to quantify the associated uncertainties, and incorporate social science-based understanding of risk communication and governance to improve policy development and implementation. The work programme will be carried out in Si-chuan (including the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake) and Yun-nan provinces. While they are both tectonically active, and mountainous, and thus vulnerable not only to earthquakes but also to consequent hazards of earthquake-triggered landslides and flooding, Si-chuan is one of the wealthiest provinces in China, while Yun-nan is one of poorest. These differences in wealth, combined with the recency of the devastating 2008 Wenchuan in Si-chuan compared to the more attenuated memory of the 1996 Lijiang earthquake in Yun-nan, make for a natural experiment in which to test the efficacy of improved probabilistic assessment of risk and associated uncertainty to people and property by earthquakes, and consequent event hazards, in supporting more risk-based approaches to disaster reduction.

This project will promote long-term sustainable growth in earthquake prone regions of China by improving both the assessment of earthquake hazard and consequent event risk and the communication, understanding, and use of the resulting probabilistic forecasts for disaster risk reduction by policymakers and local publics. It addresses several specific capacity gaps identified in successive Chinese national disaster risk reduction strategies. As well as engaging with policymakers at both the national and local levels to improve the effectiveness of emergency planning and building code regulation, we will also engage directly with local publics to enhance public understanding of risk and capacity to deal with it. In so doing, the project will also fulfil the UK's Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment to promoting "the economic development and welfare of developing countries" by drawing on UK's science base to address a key vulnerability differentially affecting the very poorest in China.

Planned Impact

This project will promote long-term sustainable growth in earthquake prone regions of China by improving both the assessment of earthquake hazard and consequent event risk and the communication, understanding, and use of the resulting probabilistic forecasts for disaster risk reduction by policymakers and local publics. In so doing, it will contribute to the wider aims of the IRNHiC programme and of the UK's Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment to poverty alleviation and sustainable development by addressing a key vulnerability differentially affecting the very poorest in China.

Engagement with the Chinese Earthquake Administration (CEA) and with provincial earthquake agencies will ensure that technical improvements in forecasting capacity are quickly translated into operational use in China.

Institutional barriers to using probabilistic information for emergency planning will be addressed through engagement with the China National Committee for Disaster Reduction, while improved building code regulation will be delivered through engagement with the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD). The capacity of local policymakers to understand and use probabilistic forecasts will also be addressed through targeted engagement in our two case study sites.

The project will also improve public understanding of and resilience to earthquake hazard and consequent event risks in China by:

*providing evidence-based recommendations about how agencies might share more complex earthquake forecast information in ways that are understandable by local publics

*engaging with the Working Group for National Hazard Maps (WG4NHM) of China to ensure that lessons from earthquake hazard mapping are applied to the communication of risk about other natural hazards in China

*engaging directly with local publics through school in our case study provinces to enhance public understanding and thus preparedness and resilience

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The presence of uncertainty in seismic data in China is almost completely unrecognised, and therefore it is very difficult to convince people of the need to undertake research of this nature.
Exploitation Route The main lesson from the project so far is that without recognition that uncertainty is present, and without an appetite to confront it, it is almost impossible to gain any traction in research of this nature. The priority must surely be education about uncertainty and risk, therefore.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment

 
Description Building Resilience conference, 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Two poster presentations at the conference "Building Resilience to Geohazards in the face of uncertainty" at the Geological Society in London, 7th and 8th September 2017. The aim of the first was to showcase the uncertainties in quoted earthquake magnitude estimates and methodology that is being developed to quantify them. The aim of the second was to demonstrate a principled methodology for inferring earthquake characteristics (with uncertainty) from anecdotal / intensity data. It is fair to say that few people at the conference were particularly interested in either poster.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Presentation "Imperfect information in seismic risk assessment" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited presentation as part of UK delegation visit to China, July 2018,
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018