Scientists have created the first earthquake risk model for all of Europe, which will provide the basis for mitigation measures and make communities more resilient to the effects of natural disasters.
Earthquakes were responsible for more than 200,000 deaths and €250 billion in damage in Europe in the 20th century.
Since it is not possible to predict exactly when and where they will take place in the future, houses and buildings must be built in particularly vulnerable areas that can withstand earthquakes without suffering too much damage.
European seismologists, geologists and engineers have revised the existing earthquake hazard model for Europe, first published in 2013, and created for the first time an earthquake risk model for the entire continent.
Seismic hazard describes potential ground shaking due to future earthquakes and is based on knowledge of past earthquakes, geology, tectonics and local site conditions anywhere in Europe.
The team, led by members of the Swiss Seismological Service and ETH Zurich’s Seismology and Geodynamics Group, say that with updated hazard model datasets they have a clearer idea of estimates for all parts of Europe.
Their model confirms that Turkey, Greece, Albania, Italy and Romania are the countries with the highest earthquake risk in Europe, followed by the other Balkan countries.
First European seismic risk model
Earthquake risk refers to the estimated economic and humanitarian costs of potential earthquakes.
With this information, scientists believe policymakers have valuable new tools at their disposal to build more resilient communities and construct buildings and architecture that withstand the risks of earthquakes.
The models “provide authoritative information to underpin national local decisions regarding the development of seismic design codes and risk mitigation strategies,” according to the team.
They also point out that the main drivers of earthquake risk are older buildings.
The risk is highest in densely populated and built-up urban areas such as Istanbul and Izmir in Turkey, Catania and Naples in Italy, Bucharest in Romania and Athens in Greece.
All of these cities have suffered from destructive and sometimes catastrophic earthquakes in the past.
Factors such as building age, population and building density, and local soil conditions can all contribute to earthquake risk.
And Turkey, Italy, Romania and Greece suffer 80 percent of the modeled average annual economic losses from earthquakes in Europe, totaling €7 billion.
Cities such as Zagreb (Croatia), Tirana (Albania), Sofia (Bulgaria), Lisbon (Portugal), Brussels (Belgium) and Basel (Switzerland) also have an above-average earthquake risk.