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Scientists Call for Earthquake Forecasting Centre

NEWS RELEASE from GNS Science
16 FEBRUARY 2007
Scientists Call for Earthquake Forecasting Centre in NZ

Some of New Zealand’s top scientists and their overseas counterparts are pushing for the establishment of an earthquake and volcano forecasting centre.

The aim is to make more effective use of New Zealand earthquake and volcano research to improve the understanding of natural hazards.

The idea for such a centre came after a three-day workshop at GNS Science in Lower Hutt, which involved some of the world’s leading earthquake researchers and risk analysis specialists.

The workshop, facilitated by the Earthquake Commission, included representatives from Victoria University of Wellington, Massey University, the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, the Earthquake Commission, GNS Science, and Greater Wellington Regional Council.

Director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, Tom Jordan, who attended the workshop, said New Zealand seismologists were highly regarded overseas and had provided two decades of international leadership in the study of earthquake predictability.

“ This has become a very important topic scientifically and it has tremendous social implications,” Professor Jordan said.

He said most of the ingredients already existed in New Zealand to make progress in earthquake forecasting. However, a centre combining a talented pool of researchers in New Zealand would provide a mechanism for more international collaboration which would lead to even greater progress.

The establishment of a New Zealand centre for studying “time-varying” earthquake and volcanic hazards would allow New Zealand scientists to work with the international earthquake research community more effectively. It would also mirror similar centres in other countries.

“ Scientists are keen to channel their basic research into areas where it has public benefit. A centre such as the one being proposed would provide an effective vehicle for doing this. “

Another who attended the workshop, Professor Jurgen Neuberg of the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, said the huge amount of earthquake data being accumulated by the GeoNet project, operated by GNS Science, offered enormous opportunities for high quality research.

“ A New Zealand centre would improve the ability to add value to large earthquake and volcano databases already existing in New Zealand.

“ To get the best end-product out of data you need to have physical models. This enables you to interpret the data and provide meaningful results. There is scope for considerable advances here.”

Professor Neuberg, who is an adviser to the British Government on the ongoing eruptions at Soufriere Hills volcano, Montserrat, said setting up a “centre of excellence” would bring together the top minds from throughout the world and this would have a payback for New Zealand.

The head of Geophysical and Hydrological Risks at Munich Reinsurance, Anselm Smolka, said the idea for a centre was timely as end-users such as the insurance industry and government agencies had an increasing appetite for information on natural hazards and risks over various time periods.

“ The demand for this type of information has grown considerably in recent years and a centre in New Zealand would equip you much better to meet this demand, ” Dr Smolka said.

ENDS

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