The Department of Geosciences at Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich has set up a new International Quality Network (IQN) Georisk. This new programme (which is funded by the German Academic Exchange Service with about 1 Mio. DEM) serves the strengthened involvement of highly qualified foreign scientists, graduate and undergraduate students in research and teaching at German universities.
The Insitute of Geophysics and the Institute of Mineralogy, Petrology and Geochemistry at the Department of Geosciences at LMU conduct the project under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Heiner Igel.
Participants in the project are universities and research institutions from seven countries: Australia (University of Queensland), Canada (University of British Columbia), China (Beijing University, China Seismological Bureau, Beijing Polytechnical University), Indonesia (Volcanological Survey), Japan (University of Tokyo and Earth Research Institute, Tokyo), New Zealand (Victoria University of Wellington), USA (Princeton University, University of Southern California and the Southern California Earthquake Center, Los Angeles; Arizona State University, Tampe).
In these countries georisks like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are the focus of public interest. The aim of the network is interdisciplinary research into the phenomena which appear during earthquakes and at volcanoes as well as a quantitative hazard analysis for special regions (e. g. Merapi volcano in Indonesia or the seismic hazard in the Los Angeles Basin). The methods employed for answering these questions reach from experimental mineralogy to simulating geoscientific processes on supercomputers at the Leibniz data centre of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences.
IQN-Georisk can fund five students per semester for training at the Department of Geosciences at LMU. IQN furthermore supports an interdisciplinary research group with positions for one post-doc and three Ph. D. students. Besides that, scientists from partner institutions spend collective courses and training stays at LMU and are involved in teaching. The project started in August 2001 with a course on earthquake physics by Prof. Yehuda Ben-Zion (University of Southern California).
The devastating earthquake in the Iranian city of Bam at the end of last year with up to 40.000 dead showed once more that such catastrophies account for the greatest natural hazards endangering mankind. "The mechanisms which happen directly at the source of the earthquake are little understood," says Prof. Heiner Igel from the Geophysics Section at LMU. "The seismic wave senergy which is radiated during an earthquake gives us some important information about the interior of our planet; the physics behind it can be computationally simulated rather well in three-dimensional models." Because large computers and parallel programmes are necessary for a realistic calculation of models the project SPICE (Seismic wave Propagation and Imaging in Complex media: a European network) bundles capacities throughout Europe. The project is funded by the European Union with approxiamately 5.5 Million Euros.
In Sudelfeld near Bayrischzell the SPICE kick-off-Meeting took place from January 18 to 21, 2004 with about 40 participants. At this meeting, the details of the research project were specified.
SPICE was authorised in the 6th Framework Programme of the European Commission and belongs to largest Marie Curie Research Training Networks so far. The funding began in January 2004. The lead management for the projects lies with the Geophysics Section of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at LMU, involved are a total of 14 European universities; among these are Oxford University, the Institut de Physique du Globe in Paris, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia in Rome, Universitetet I Oslo, the University of Utrecht as well as the Charles University in Prague.
In all areas of seismology complex computational algorithms play a major part, especially when calculating so-called earthquake scenarios," Igel adds. "This way the ground motion after potentially possiblem strong Earthquake can be forecast in future." This should allow for identifying regions which – because of e. g. particular characteristics of the subsurface – are more vulnerable than others. In global seismology new computational programmes shall bring progress in resolving 3d-tomographic pictures of the Earth's interior which would help understanding dynamic processes happening there.
Besides common research projects SPICE will above all implement a digital data base containing tested computer programmes. These programmes can then enter routine service in seismological evaluations. Local exposure for certain areas shall then be estimated with the help of another data base containing provided earthquake scenarios. This method shall be applied among others to the Cologne and Beijing Basins and to California. The crucial points of SPICE are mobility and training for the participating junior researchers, which will be offered through wokshops organised by the project partners. The electronic teaching material will be provided via internet.