Marine Geophysics and Hydroacoustics

Ocean Hazard Risk Assessment

Studies on ocean hazard analysis and their magnitude/frequency relationship have been primarily championed by natural scientists. The physical and geological complexity of these hazards proposed by natural scientists is often not considered or adapted by social scientists during their risk and vulnerability assessments. Therefore, the field of natural hazard and risk assessment is one of the most prominent fields of research, once it comes to convergent or transdisciplinary sciences.

Submarine natural hazards like earthquakes, landslides and related tsunamis pose a great threat to coastal communities. More... While the field of terrestrial hazard and risk assessment has developed significantly during the last decades, and communities have become increasingly aware of these, geohazards from the oceans are less prominent. The general awareness of submarine hazards rose after the 2004 Indian Ocean- and 2011 Tōhoku-Okir earthquake and tsunami. However, awareness and interpretation of natural hazards of any kind is shaped by many factors like cultural background and education. When it comes to natural hazards, the obvious terrestrial danger has a greater awareness than “unseen” ocean hazards. Therefore, a large volcano edifice with regular eruptions is perceived as a larger threat than low frequency-high risk events, such as tsunamis caused by offshore earthquakes and landslides.

In the project „From Hazard Analysis to an integrative Risk Assessment: Can we do better?“ (Funded by the Cluster of Excellence “The Future Ocean”), we aim to investigate and assess the complex relationship between ocean hazards and their potential risk to coastal communities. Our method bases on an interdisciplinary approach, which includes natural-, as well as social sciences.

The target study site: Southern Italy

Many earthquakes and resulting tsunamis affected the Mediterranean region during historical times. Some of the most severe events occurred in Southern Italy, were major earthquakes and tsunamis affected the population in 1693, 1783 and 1908. The reason for this seismic activity is the ongoing subduction of the African plate underneath the Eurasian plate. The 1908 Messina Earthquake and Tsunami were Europe’s most disastrous natural disaster in the 20th century. The cities of Messina and Reggio Calabria were almost completely destroyed and between 75,000 and 200,000 lives were lost, of which ~2.000 causalities were caused by the coherent tsunami with run-ups of up to 15 m. It is still unsolved, where exactly the rupture happened, nor where the tsunami was generated.

The German research vessel Poseidon in front of Mt Etna during POS496 (Source: Felix Gross).

The German research vessel Poseidon in front of Mt Etna during POS496 (Source: Felix Gross).

Furthermore, the area is well-known for its intensive volcanic activity manifested in the Aeolian Island volcanism and Europe's largest active volcano: Mt Etna. As the working group Marine Geophysics and Hydroacoustics at the University of Kiel and the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research already acquired several datasets addressing submarine hazards in this region, Southern Italy was chosen as the first target site for an integrative multi hazard risk assessment.

Marieke Laengner working on the beta version of MORA (Mediterranean Ocean Risk App), an interactive, web based application for displaying, processing and analyzing scenario catalogues of ocean hazards. The MORA platform is one of the outcomes of the project Future Ocean CP1643.

Marieke Laengner working on the beta version of MORA (Mediterranean Ocean Risk App), an interactive, web based application for displaying, processing and analyzing scenario catalogues of ocean hazards. The MORA platform is one of the outcomes of the project Future Ocean CP1643.

The first phase of the project includes satellite remote sensing techniques to detect urban areas and first approaches for a development of a better analysis of human activity. Furthermore, we are working on tools to communicate ocean hazards better to a broader audience.

Contact person for the project: Felix Gross

Project participants (University of Kiel): Sebastian Krastel, Marieke Laengner, Athanasios Vafeidis

Project participants (GEOMAR): Morelia Urlaub, Heidrun Kopp, Dietrich Lange, Florian Petersen

 

Example of a multilayer approach to classify areas at risk. All data is based on remote sensing techniques based on satellite and hydroacoustic measurements.

Example of a multilayer approach to classify areas at risk. All data is based on remote sensing techniques based on satellite and hydroacoustic measurements.