GEM TOPIQS Newsletter Issue No.18 March-April 2020    View this email in your browser

Mapping COVID19 cases against earthquake risk

Dear GEM Partners and Friends,

I hope that you’re all doing well and have remained safe from the virus. Having survived two months of lockdown and enormous stress on the health care system and economy, Italy is now gradually re-opening businesses and industries. Let’s hope that Phase 2 here and around the world results in a sensible and responsible balance between safeguarding health and promoting economic activity.

There are a lot of ‘what ifs’ being asked and one of them is ‘What if an earthquake strikes in a location severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic’?

GEM has put together an experimental map presenting COVID-19 statistics over the GEM global earthquake risk map (2018). The combined map indicates areas where a damaging earthquake could cause increases in COVID-19 cases due to displacement of people from damaged buildings or where health care systems may be further stressed due to human injuries. The map is featured in the IN FOCUS section of the newsletter.

Despite March and April being the worst months for the virus in Italy, GEM has continued to be productive and, along with all of you, we are learning to work from home and become more communicative and efficient online. This shift is rapidly becoming the ‘new normal’. We will host our first online Governing Board meeting next month (18-19 June), and intend to continue working from home and online for the foreseeable future.

Our TOP STORY in this issue is the renewal of partnership between GEM and the Government of Canada. We were also successful with our first two OpenQuake online trainings courtesy of the USAID-supported TREQ Project. We are keen to offer other training and education opportunities online more widely in the future.

We’ve also released the latest OpenQuake engine (3.9) ‘Taylor’ and its complementary tool IRMTK QGIS plugin (3.9.1).

Lastly, we’ve rounded up some interesting topics from the Internet under the AROUND THE INTERNET section for your reading pleasure.

We value your opinion so please send us your suggestions and feedback to help us improve our next issues.

Wishing good health to all,

John Schneider
Secretary General
GEM Foundation, Pavia, Italy

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Canada renews support for GEM as Public Sponsor

The renewed partnership is expected to continue until 2024

Canada renews support for GEM as Public Sponsor

The GEM-Canada National Steering Committee led by Natural Resources Canada - with members Public Safety Canada, Insurance Bureau of Canada, Defence Research and Development Canada, the Department of Finance, Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, Canadian Institute of Planners, Assembly of First Nations, and the Métis National Council – renews its commitment to support GEM for five years as Public Sponsor... | Read More >>

GEM Updates
TREQ updates: OpenQuake online training, a success

Thanks to the evolving tools for remote work, we have been adapting the activities of collaborative work from on site meetings and workshops to online video calls and trainings... | Read more >>
Towards Improved Probabilistic Seismic Hazard Assessment for Bangladesh

A team of scientists from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh led by Dewan Md. Enamul Haque, Assistant Professor at Department of Disaster Science and Management... | Read more >>
Using the lessons from COVID19: Getting ready for earthquakes in the future

Recently, GEM has completed a short social media campaign on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 that can be used in dealing with future earthquake risk. In case you miss... | Read more >>
Communicating Risk: How we respond to risk and what that means for communication

GEM participated recently in a UNDRR Geneva-sponsored webinar facilitated by Jeanette Elsworth, UNDRR Senior Public Information Officer... | Read more >>
GEM Global Maps and Products survey

GEM is conducting a survey in the weeks ahead. The objectives of the GEM survey are: to understand how GEM global maps and other products... | Read more >>
GEM Impact Story
Scientific Collaboration - a vital element for productivity
In this story, Scientific Collaboration - a vital element for productivity, GEM interviewed Phil Cummins of Geoscience Australia to get to know his insights, perspectives on the impact of GEM on earthquake hazard model development.
GEM impacted the way we do work at Geoscience Australia because our partnership with GEM allowed us to focus more on the quality of our data and our data analysis rather than the software development. And this really resulted in a dramatic improvement in the Australian earthquake hazard model. - Phil Cummins | Read more >>
In Focus
Mapping COVID19 cases against earthquake risk

This map presents COVID-19 statistics released by Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center CSSE over the GEM Global Risk Layer depicting earthquake risk from the GEM Global Earthquake Model (2018)  as normalized average annual loss (AAL) (meters squared).  The COVID-19 data shows cumulative number of new cases reported.

View Interactive Map
Hazard: Modelling subduction sources for probabilistic seismic hazard analysis
Pagani proposes a subduction source modelling methodology that aims to improve probabilistic seismic hazard analysis in high seismicity regions. One component of the methodology addresses the definition of the 3D geometry of ruptures along the interface and within the slab. The proposed method uses a combination of datasets (e.g. earthquake catalogues,  Slab 2.0) to reliably define their position and geometry. The second component of the methodology proposed combines information from past seismicity and tectonics to define earthquake occurrence for subduction interface sources. The hazard team used components of this methodology to create various models composing GEM’s global mosaic including South America, Central America and the Caribbean, Mexico, the Philippines and the Pacific Islands.

Hazard: Probabilistic seismic hazard analysis model for the Philippines
Henremagne C Peñarubia of Phivolcs, et. al present an updated and more detailed seismic hazard model for the Philippines, developed in a collaboration between PHIVOLCS and the Global Earthquake Model (GEM) Foundation. The model will be made openly available through the GEM Global Hazard Mosaic.

A probabilistic seismic hazard model for North Africa
Poggi describe the development of a new comprehensive PSHA model for North Africa, by combining active faults and distributed seismicity sources. The former component is constrained from published geological descriptions and geodetic data, while the latter is from the harmonization of published earthquake catalogues.

CCAF-DB: the Caribbean and Central American active fault database
Styron et. al assembled a database of ∼250 active fault traces in the Caribbean and Central American regions to characterize the seismic hazard and tectonics of the area, as part of the Global Earthquake Model (GEM) Foundation's Caribbean and Central American Risk Assessment (CCARA) project. The dataset is available in many vector GIS formats and contains fault trace locations as well as attributes describing fault geometry and kinematics, slip rates, data quality and uncertainty, and other metadata as available.
OpenQuake Updates
OpenQuake engine version 3.9 (‘Taylor’)

This is a major release featuring several optimizations, in particular for complex logic trees, as well as new features and bug fixes. This release is named in memory of the late Peter Taylor, Director at Oasis Loss Modelling Framework. GEM enjoyed robust and constructive discussions with Peter in 2015 which laid the foundations for closer collaboration between GEM and OASIS LMF. Peter made a real contribution to open loss modelling frameworks and recognized that sharing and collaboration are key to better understanding and mitigating risk.

For full details of what's new, check

Download at

OpenQuake 3.9 includes changes in engine behavior, refactoring of the logic tree code, enhancement of the point source collapsing mechanism for site-specific classical calculations, improvements in the calculation of aggregate loss curves, and a number of new features in the disaggregation calculator, ebrisk calculator, new stochastic calculator, and some experimental features such as amplification of hazard curves and amplification of ground motion fields.

The OpenQuake engine version 3.9 calculations can be visualized using the latest OQ IRMT QGIS plugin version 3.9.1 available at:
GEM in the News!
Vitor Silva: 2020 Natural Hazards division medalist story
EGU Natural Hazards blog features GEM Risk Team Coordinator, Vitor Silva, recipient of the 2020 EGU Natural Hazard Division Outstanding Early Career Scientist Award. Vitor talks about the challenges of developing the global earthquake risk model, his insights on how to keep risk assessment data up-to-date, and GEM's future work on risk assessment using #MachineLearning, satellite imagery, and linking GEM's programs with emergent problems such as #ClimateChange and urban expansion. Read the full interview below.

GEM di Pavia realizza le tre super mappe dei terremoti mondiali. Ecco cosa possono vedere (Italian) republishes an article on the global earthquake hazard and risk maps released by GEM in December 2018. The article, which features GEM’s Hazard Team Coordinator, Marco Pagani, was republished on March 27, 2020 after a series of minor earthquakes rocked Italy at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown. The article has been viewed more than 2600 times.
GEM Mentions
Review article: Natural hazard risk assessments at the global scale
The paper reviews the scientific literature on natural hazard risk assessments at the global scale, specifically studying whether and how they have examined future projections of hazard, exposure, and/or vulnerability. GEM’s work on the global earthquake risk modelling was mentioned for its use of stochastic event sets to produce probabilistic risk estimates in terms of economic damage to buildings at 1 km × 1 km resolution. The paper also mentions GEM’s use of a defining feature in recent global studies: the capital stock data.

Disseminating Hazard Risk Information Based on Scientific Insight
National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Resilience (NIED), Japan, a GEM public sponsor, mentions GEM as one of its approaches to contributing its own research findings to evaluate earthquake hazard risk all around the world using an internationally standardized protocol, while taking on a coordinating role for the Asia region. The article also promotes the global hazard risk map through the website.

The Transient and Intermittent Nature of Slow Slip
The paper discusses the different nature of slow-slip earthquakes and modelling the complexity of slow-slip faults. The paper features GEM’s active faults on a map illustrating where slow slip can happen and where it has been observed.

Design guidelines for the application of soil characterization and liquefaction risk assessment protocols
A project report on Design guidelines for the application of soil characterization and liquefaction risk assessment protocols mentions GEM’s global exposure database as one of the examples of various building inventory databases that have been developed at a global scale, following different approaches and with distinct levels of accuracy and reliability. The report also mentions the GEM Building Taxonomy – the benefits of using it and why it is ideal for a risk framework that should lay out the principles of damage and loss assessment for different scales of resolution, from site specific, to local, to national/continental (often also referred to as regional).
Around the Internet
New Earthquake Math Predicts How Destructive They’ll Be
Robin George Andrews writes about geoscientists from Brown University using mathematical models inspired by landslides and avalanches, where researchers argue that these damaging high-frequency waves are caused not by the slippage itself, but by geological pinball games taking place within the fault.

A new map reveals which parts of the US are most at risk of earthquakes in unprecedented detail — including quakes caused by people
Scientists have mapped seismic stress across North America in unprecedented detail, revealing the areas most at risk of earthquakes. The study conducted by Zoback of Stanford University was published in the journal Nature Communications, calling it the first "quantitative synthesis of faulting across the entire continent." The map and study offer detailed data about the tectonic forces at work beneath the Earth's surface.

Strong earthquakes on Turkey-Iran border trigger scientific cooperation
Two scientists from Iran and Turkey are trying to converge on what faults in the region slipped during the series of earthquakes on February 23, 2020 – highlighting that scientific cooperation is crucial in understanding future earthquake risk in a region where one earthquake could increase stress on a neighboring fault.

Opinion: What We Can Learn From the 2019 Earthquake in Albania
UNDRR Europe presents three key lessons from the earthquake in November 2019 in Albania:
  • integrate DRR into development strategies and raise awareness among citizens and governments about earthquake risk; 
  • upgrade seismic codes, improving seismic design and construction practice, and empower communities in land use management and integrate mitigation measures into urban planning; 
  • and strengthen critical infrastructure, and make them resilient to any potential hazards.
What if? What if a natural disaster strikes amid a pandemic?
John C. Mutter, Ph.D., Professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences and Professor of International & Public Affairs, Columbia University posits that given the timescales of the Earth’s natural spasms, and the course of the coronavirus pandemic, it will only be by luck that we will avoid an intersection. He adds that somewhere an earthquake or a major storm will happen in a place where the nemesis is out of control.
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