Natural hazards: earthquakes

Earthquake conversations in Istanbul

An important paradox of hazard communication is that the more effectively a potential physical threat is made public by the scientist, the more readily the scientific message becomes normalized into the daily discourses of ordinary life. As a result, heightened risk awareness does not necessarily motivate personal or collective preparedness. If geoscientists are to help at-risk communities adopt meaningful measures to protect themselves, new strategies are needed for public communication and community engagement.

Such a situation confronts the issue of risk communication in Istanbul. The geoscientific consensus is that the city of 13.5 million inhabitants will face a major earthquake threat in the coming decades, yet there is little or no evidence of those living in at-risk neighbourhoods adopting seismic protection and adjustment measures.

Find out more about the seismic threat facing Istanbul and the communication challenges that this raises for geoscientists.

Image credit: Johanna Ickert

Project: ALErT

As part of an EU-funded Integrated training Network (Anatolian pLateau climatE and Tectonic hazards – ALErT), Plymouth researchers have been working in some of Istanbul’s most seismically-vulnerable districts, exploring community-based participatory approaches to fostering more effective communication between geoscientists and resident groups.

In what is a novel combination of geoscience and cultural anthropology, the research examines the role of film as a medium for facilitating dialogue between hazard practitioners and those directly at risk. A key element is the need to communicate ‘actionable risk’ – i.e. those basic actions that are most vital in seismic preparedness among at-risk communities.

To find out more, read the research paper 'Earthquake risk communication as dialogue'

The Anatomy of an Earthquake

The Natural Environment Research Council has teamed up with Plymouth University's Professor Iain Stewart to create an educational film about the hazards posed by earthquakes. The film  uses strong narrative and interactive graphics to visualise the physical causes of earthquakes and convey what happens when a seismic hazard deep beneath the Earth's surface meets a vulnerable city above. It also asks how we can prepare our mega-cities for a direct seismic strike, as people around the world flock to urban centres.

It was created in partnership with Bristol-based graphics company Shadow Industries and NERC's British Geological Survey and Earthquakes without Frontiers, a programme jointly funded by NERC and the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) to improve understanding of the physical and social factors that cause vulnerability to earthquakes on continental interiors.

The scope and content of film was designed with the GCSE and A-Level curricula in mind, and is intended as a new resource to introduce students to the topic and with over 20,000 views, it is NERC’s most popular science film on its YouTube Channel.

Iain Stewart summarises the key aspects of the Nepal earthquake

On the morning of April 25 2015, a large earthquake struck Nepal between the capital city of Kathmandu and another city, Pokhara. The earthquake had a magnitude of 7.8. strong enough for tremors to be felt in nearby Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. Many of the country's historic sites were severely damaged, including temples and monuments. Nearly 9,000 people died.  One week following the quake. Iain Stewart summarises the key aspects of the seismic shock and airs some of the fundamental issues that the unfolding disaster was raising.

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