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FORESIGHT Report Summary

Project ID: 511139
Funded under: FP6-SUSTDEV
Country: France

Foresight: Frequent observation-driven realistic evaluation and simulation of interacting geophysical hazard triggers

The overarching scientific objective of FORESIGHT has been to understand the mechanically coupled, interrelated processes leading to the hazardous activity associated with earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides and tsunamis. To assess, mitigate and manage the risks posed by these hazards, existing and fresh data from multi-sensor surveillance networks and satellites are combined within a time-dependent Geographic Information System (GIS).

To harmonise data and methodologies for understanding geophysical processes across Europe, FORESIGHT has focused on four natural laboratories: Iceland, Azores, Alps and Turkey. FORESIGHT, like its FP5 predecessor RETINA, has emphasised the mechanical coupling and temporal interactions between geophysical processes.

FORESIGHT has applied advanced methods of GIS analysis to enhance physical models for calculating, predicting, and interpreting the consequences of such geophysical activity. FORESIGHT has supported the implementation of new European-scale risk management systems by civil defence participants in the project.

To achieve these goals, the FORESIGHT consortium has strived to:
- Recognize times of increased geophysical activity by assimilating fresh data from existing sensors.
- Locate areas of increased geophysical activity by mapping crustal deformation, seismicity, and other indicators.
- Recognise times of increased geophysical activity.
- Develop exploitable models for the physical mechanisms underlying correlated events.
- Calculate stress fields to identify areas where one event may trigger another.
- Identify times and areas of increased hazard, accounting for triggered events in conditional probabilities.
- Introduce these time-dependent assessments of hazard into risk management systems.
- Share expertise and resources in risk management at the European level.

As a result, FORESIGHT has helped reduce the effects of natural disasters upon the citizens and infrastructure of Europe. The aim of FORESIGHT has been to understand the mechanically coupled, interrelated processes leading to the hazardous activity associated with earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides and tsunamis. FORESIGHT, like its FP5 predecessor RETINA, emphasises the mechanical coupling and temporal interactions between these geophysical processes.

The bulk of the work accomplished during the FORESIGHT project involved building time-dependent Geographic Information Systems according to international standards. FORESIGHT selected four study areas where the natural hazards of earthquakes, landslides, volcanoes and tsunamis pose a real risk to people living in nearby European cities. In all four cases, the FORESIGHT project has provided better maps of the hazard, which in turn inform decision-makers attempting to develop strategies for mitigating risk. For the ‘test case’ study areas, these hazard maps represent the current state of the art in the sense that the underlying data have been incorporated into Geographic Information Systems with metadata according to the standards specified by the INSPIRE initiative. In each of the four natural laboratories, the scientists collecting and analyzing various types of data have harmonized their GIS in order to be able to import/export layers using ArcGIS ESRI software (D27, WP 3100) and incorporate new data into a time-dependent GIS. In addition, the mechanical coupling models between the four natural hazards have been used to produce new layers in the time-dependent GIS. For example, the time-dependent GIS can now include the results of models for mechanical coupling between earthquakes and tsunami around Istanbul, between earthquakes and aftershocks in Iceland, between earthquakes and landslides in the Alps, and earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in the Azores.

As part of this effort, all partners have applied the recommendations described in the user requirement document (D26, WP 2000). Workpackages on “Visualization of Geophysical processes” (WP 4000), “Development and Application of Coupling Models” (WP 5000), “Time-dependent hazard assessment” (WP6000), “Risk management combining time-dependent hazard and vulnerability assessments” (WP7000) and “Contribution to European risk management” (WP 8000) have been achieved in all four natural laboratories.

One of the important achievements of FORESIGHT has been performing simulation exercises as an educational vehicle. The RETINA/FORESIGHT consortium ran a simulation exercise based on the occurrence of an earthquake in the Sao Miguel Island in the Azores. During this exercise, the public gained knowledge through broadcast information of the objectives of the simulation, as well of the local vulnerabilities and their existing risks. This way, local population became aware of the consequences of such event. Although the general public did not take part in the exercise, Boy Scouts played active roles as victims and Red Cross volunteers worked as part of the Civil Protection system there. Equally important, the scientists observed how their data and theories could (and could not) assist the decision-makers in their work.

The concept of mechanical coupling between natural hazards has helped provide a framework for approaching multi-risk analysis. For example, the FORESIGHT approach was successfully applied in the Azores natural laboratory, where a period of seismo-magmatic unrest shook the island of San Miguel during the summer of 2005. Indeed, the FORESIGHT regional coordinator from the Iceland Natural laboratory (Freysteinn Sigmundsson) visited the Azores Natural Laboratory in September 2005. Some of the lessons learned in the Iceland Natural Laboratory during a similar period of unrest from 1994 through 1999 applied in the Azores Natural Laboratory. Another important achievement has been the evaluation of flooding hazard in Iceland as a result of a jokulup, a “tsunami from the mountains” caused by catastrophic failure of an ice dam following the melting caused by a volcanic eruption beneath a glacier. In the Turkey Natural laboratory, an important advance has been a firmer understanding of the geophysical processes called post-seismic relaxation following the 1999 earthquakes on the North Anatolian fault. The working hypothesis is that these processes may reduce stresses on that fault. In the Alps natural laboratory, the major achievement was to evaluate the hazard posed by landslides triggered by earthquakes, a challenging problem in light of the apparently long recurrence times between earthquakes there.

Twenty-four months after kick-off, the FORESIGHT project has reached all its goals. We have completed the final review meeting 23-25 August 2006 in Geysir (South Iceland Seismic Zone), Iceland. The discussions between the four natural laboratories continued the tradition of building bridges between scientists monitoring the earth and decision-makers worrying about people. For these reasons, FORESIGHT has helped reduce the effects of natural disasters upon the citizens and infrastructure of Europe.

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