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Faulting, Surface Deformation, Landscapes and Seismic Hazard

The goal of seismic hazard investigations should be to study earthquakes before they occur, not afterwards. The emerging discipline of Earthquake Geology uses observations of faulted Pleistocene and Holocene deposits and landforms to conclude on the rates of slip across active faults and hence the locations for future earthquakes and the rates at which they will occur (e.g. the number of damaging earthquakes expected in a given time period). Such information augments the forensic studies of earthquakes carried out by seismologists.

This lecture will describe a case study in Earthquake Geology for central Italy, where despite ongoing studies of Pleistocene and Holocene features, the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake (Mw 6.3, 308 deaths) occurred on a fault that was not known to Earthquake Geologists. Using observations from tectonic geomorphology, structural geology, terrestrial laser scanning (LiDAR), ground-penetrating radar, in situ 36-Cl cosmogenic dating, and a personal account of field studies in the days after the earthquake, an attempt will be made to explain why the earthquake was not foreseen, and yet why Earthquake Geology is still the way forward towards robust probabilistic earthquake forecasts. 

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Dr Gerald Roberts (Birkbeck, University of London)


Gerald Roberts gained a BSc Geology from University of Wales College Cardiff in 1987. He gained a PhD in structural geology from Durham University in 1990. He was a NERC fellow at the University of Manchester for 1 year, before starting his lectureship at Birkbeck, University of London in 1991. He is currently a Reader in Earthquake Geology.