OpenQuake in the Shaky Isles

New Zealand, often referred to colloquially as the “shaky isles ” due to its position on the boundary between the Pacific and Australian plates, has been involved in a long-term partnership with GEM through GNS Science representatives on the Governing and Science Boards, leading the development of the GEM Faulted Earth Database and collaborating on regional initiatives. 

New Zealand will now be the first country to run an end-to-end calculation using the OpenQuake-Engine. The researcher’s team led by Nick Horspool and Andrew King converted the existing national hazard model (dated back 2012) in a format compatible with the Engine, while adding new specific NZ Ground Motion Prediction Equations and Fault Scaling Laws to the OpenQuake repository. Initial results of the comparison are promising (Figure 1) and if all goes well the team will soon be keen to share the model on the OpenQuake platform.


Figure 1. Hazard Maps for 10% Probability of Exceedance in 50 years produced using OpenQuake (left) and the New Zealand National Seismic Hazard Model (right) Copyright GNS 2015

PNG clears the ground for new building codes

Fig. 3 Probabilistic seismic hazard map of Papua New Guinea – Copyright GA 2015

Papua New Guinea is situated at the edge of what is called the “ring of fire”, within the convergence zone of the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates. Its current seismic zoning map, which was developed in the early 1980s and is included in the national building code, needed a revision.

In 2013 the PNG’s Department of Mineral Policy and Geohazards Management began a project in collaboration with Geoscience Australia to re-evaluate the level of seismic hazard in the region and to replace the existing model. 

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Advancing science


“Not only is it vital to evaluate and benchmark the conditions that lead to adverse earthquake impacts and loss – says GEM Social Vulnerability and Integrated Risk Coordinator Christopher G. Burton- it is equally important to measure the capacity of populations to respond to damaging events and to provide a set of metrics for priority setting and decision-making”.

To allow for a holistic approach to seismic risk assessment and to integrate societal factors with risk estimation, GEM released the Integrated Risk Modelling Toolkit, a QGIS plugin compatible with the OpenQuake platform that is now accessible from and from within the QGIS software itself. 

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Geospatial is the future

The second edition of the European symposium on Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial, which took place on July 15-17 in Como (Italy), was a great occasion for GEM to relate with experts and leading organizations in the field of open data, but also to show progress in the development of its tools. The OpenQuake Platform and the Integrated Risk Toolkit were presented to a diverse and curious audience, impressed by the performance and scalability of the tools. Questions raised were mostly about the value of open data and the importance of communicating open licenses, as often the concept of licensing is associated with commercial activities rather than as a way to release resources to the public.

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Build up on trainings

The workshop organized in Lima in collaboration with the National Center for Disaster Risk Assessment, Prevention and Reduction of Peru (CENEPRED) on May 13-15 2015 represented a great step ahead for GEM both in having our regional partners communicating the progress of their activities and in enhancing their ability to perform calculations with the OpenQuake-Engine. The new GUI (graphical user interface) of the Engine was extremely well received and participants were able to perform risk calculations in about half the usual time.

There are several other projects starting soon in Colombia in which GEM guidelines and tools will be used and similar results were also obtained for Chile and for a few buildings in Venezuela.

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GEM has recently released the new Risk Modeller’s Toolkit, a suite of tools for creating the input models required for running seismic risk calculations using the OpenQuake-Engine

The RMTK implements several state-of-the-art methods for deriving robust analytical seismic fragility and vulnerability functions for single structures or building classes. The RMTK also provides interactive tools for post-processing and visualising different results from OpenQuake seismic risk calculations, such as loss exceedance curves, collapse maps, damage distribution, and loss maps.

Find more information on how you can download the toolkit and contribute to the project on our website.


Resilience is in our hand

Andy Thompson ran the Global Catastrophe Risk & Insurance practice at Arup, and represented Arup on the governing board of GEM from 2013 - 2015.  He recently left Arup to start a technology company that quantifies earthquake risk at the building scale.
G: On 2009 you wrote Peace of mind in earthquake country (together with Peter Yanev), which is considered “the bible about earthquake risks”. Why do you think it was so well received by the non-expert public? And based on that experience, how communication should change in order to facilitate a global “understanding of risk” (as suggested in the recent Sendai Framework 2015)?

We wrote the book for non-technical people, following the lead from Peter’s 1974 First Edition. We tried to demystify earthquake engineering and make it tangible for everyone. The key is that there are really simple things that can be done to reduce risk, and we wanted to get that message across.  In my mind, the key to achieving a ‘global understanding of risk’ is to use consistent simple language across industries, from policy to insurance to engineering – GEM could be a leader in establishing this common terminology.         
Read the full interview here

New faces at the Secretariat

GEM welcomes Mauro Dolce (Italian Department of Civil Protection) in his new role of Chair of the Governing Board, replacing John Schneider. John is now an advisor to GEM and will take over from Anselm Smolka in the role of Secretary General from January 2016. Anselm will remain connected to GEM in a senior advisory role.

We also warmly welcome Chris Wardle, a senior professional with several years’ experience in the field of fundraising and resource mobilization, who will take up the position of GEM Fundraiser based in Pavia from August 1st 2015. Michael Musori has already joined the social vulnerability team to complete his master thesis in Risk and Emergency Management.
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