Natural Hazards

Imaggeo on Mondays: The road to nowhere – natural hazards in the Peloponnese

Imaggeo on Mondays: The road to nowhere – natural hazards in the Peloponnese

The Gulf of Corinth, in southern Greece, separates the Peloponnese peninsula from the continental mainland. The structural geology of the region is complex, largely defined by the subduction of the African Plate below the Eurasian Plate (a little to the south).

The Gulf itself is an active extensional marine basin, i.e., one that is pulling open and where sediments accumulate. Sedimentary basins result from the thinning, and therefore sinking, of the underlying crust (though other factors can also come into play). The rifting in the region is relatively new, dating back some five million years, and results in rare but dangerous earthquakes.

The active tectonics result in a plethora of other natural hazards, not only earthquakes.  Minor and major faults crisscross the area and have the potential to trigger landslides, posing a threat to lives and infrastructure. A road, swept away in a landslide, in the northern Peloponnese (along the southern margin of the Corinth rift) is a clear example of the hazard.

“This photo was taken in the Valimi fault block [editor’s note: a section of bedrock bound on either side by faults], east of the Krathis valley. West of this valley, the landscape is characterised by  narrow and deep gorges as the present day rivers cut into the well-consolidated conglomerates deposited during the active extension of the basin,” explains Romain Hemelsdaël, author of this week’s imaggeo on Mondays photograph.

Characteristically, sediments deposited in actively extensional rifts where the Earth’s crust and lithosphere are being pulled apart, as at the Gulf of Corinth, change in size (both horizontally and vertically) and composition. To the east of the Krathis valley, the sediments are being uplifted and are dominated by less competent sandstones and siltstones, as opposed to the conglomerates found in the Valimi fault block.

“The present landscape along this part of the rift margin forms large valleys covered by active landslides,” clarifies Romain. “In this photograph, the road was initially constructed directly on silts which were deposited by lakes and rivers. Up the hill, a temporary track currently replaces the road but this track still remains within an active landslide.”


Imaggeo is the EGU’s online open access geosciences image repository. All geoscientists (and others) can submit their photographs and videos to this repository and, since it is open access, these images can be used for free by scientists for their presentations or publications, by educators and the general public, and some images can even be used freely for commercial purposes. Photographers also retain full rights of use, as Imaggeo images are licensed and distributed by the EGU under a Creative Commons licence. Submit your photos at

GeoTalk: Raffaele Albano, Early Career Scientist Representative

GeoTalk: Raffaele Albano, Early Career Scientist Representative

In addition to the usual GeoTalk interviews, were we highlight the work and achievements of early career researchers, over the next few months we’ll be introducing the Division early career scientist representatives (ECS). They are responsible for ensuring that the voice of EGU ECS membership is heard. From organising short courses during the General Assembly, through to running Division Blogs and attending regular ECS representative meetings, their tasks in this role are varied.  Their role is entirely voluntary and they are all active members of their research community, so we’ll also be touching on their scientific work during the interview.

Today we are talking to Raffaele Albano, ECS representative for the Natural Hazard Division.

Before we get stuck in, could you introduce yourself and tell us a little more about yourself and your career?

Water, landscapes and nature have played an important role in my life as engineer, as I work to understand how they interact with one another and how they impact humans. As a citizen, I  also strive to build an awareness of my surroundings. Currently, I’m a research associate at University of Basilicata (Italy) and I’m co-founder of the Wat-TUBE spin-off devoted to the technology transfer of research results. I also love arts and historical heritages. I cultivate this passion as a volunteer in the UNESCO Young Italian Commission.

During my education and professional experience my curiosity has driven my passion for research and innovation. Therefore, I’m strongly motivated to research ideas to be converted into innovative actions which can lead to positive changes in our society. In particular, my aim is not only to develop and disseminate knowledge, but to also manage and enhance the results to build sustainable technologies.My main research interests revolve around developing models (mainly open-source software) to support flood and drought risk management.

The pluvial flood, July 2016, in Matera (South Italy), nominated European Capital of Culture 2019. The ancient system of tanks in the Sassi of Matera, in which rainwater is collected and accumulated with extreme care. The tanks are an outstanding example of an architectural system, unique engineering and landscape, leading them to be listed as World Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. In 1927 this water resource management system was replaced by the Sele Aqueduct.

The pluvial flood, July 2016, in Matera (South Italy), nominated European Capital of Culture 2019. The ancient system of tanks in the Sassi of Matera, in which rainwater is collected and accumulated with extreme care. The tanks are an outstanding example of an architectural system, unique engineering and landscape, leading them to be listed as World Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. In 1927 this water resource management system was replaced by the Sele Aqueduct.

Although we touch upon it in the introduction of this post: what does your role as ECS representative involve?

The ECS community makes up a significant proportion of the EGU membership and, furthermore, ECSs have different needs compared to more established scientists. Therefore, it is important that young members know that they have an important role to play within the Natural Hazard (NH) Division and, in general, in EGU activities. With this in mind, my key responsibility, as ECS representative, is to serve as a link between ECSs and the NH Division. In my role, I want to encourage ECS involvement and active participation in the EGU activities, in particular, during the General Assembly (GA).

I think that ECS Representatives should look at short-term benefits that spur momentum and long-term challenge in engaging young members using their enthusiasm and creativity in shaping an open and better geoscientific community.

I stay in close contact with the NH division president, Prof. Giorgio Boni, and also with some of the science officers in order to be involved in all the activities that concern ECSs (e.g. meetings, conferences, short courses, awards, social activities, and so on), both during the General Assembly and throughout the year. Indeed, as well as several activities organized during EGU 2016, this year, the NH Division has developed a presence on Facebook and Twitter. These are managed by the social media coordinator, Jackson Teller, (who is an ECS member). Moreover, the NH Division plans to propose a call among ECSs to implement and manage a division blog.

Finally, I participate in the regular Skype meetings with the ECS-reps from the other divisions in which we can exchange information, feedback and points of view that could be useful to bring it both to the EGU’s Program Committee and to each Divisions.

Why did you put yourself forward for the role?

At the EGU GA 2016, there were 13650 participants, of which 25% were students and 53% ECSs. It is clear that with so many ECS members, there is an enormous potential to increase ECS involvement, including them contributing at the division and council level. Moreover, typically, new papers, new ideas, new methods, come from the ECS community. Therefore, supporting and promoting, even small contributions for the ECS community (e.g. awards, travel grants, education activities, and other key information), can make a huge difference to young scientists’ careers and, indeed, for the future of the geosciences. It is a nice challenge to provide a real opportunity to re-think the role of ECS from simple consumers to contributors to the NH community .My motto is: Be open, be tuned, get inspired!

What is your vision for the EGU ECS Natural Hazard community and what do you hope to achieve in the time you hold the position?

NH is one of the biggest divisions in the EGU community. Moreover, the division is, by nature, diverse and multidisciplinary. Hence, it is a hard challenge to increase the links between members from different disciplines and backgrounds (e.g. engineering, geologists, sociologists, economists, remote sensing, and so on) in order to exploit its full richness. In this context, a key responsibility of the ECS Representative is to be receptive and responsive to the input provided by the members, creating an atmosphere of openness and inclusion which makes the scientific community more accessible to ECSs. Current goals include enhanced networking opportunities and organisation of short courses, but I believe there are other opportunities that reach far beyond these immediate needs. In this light, I call for more conversation on how the scientific community could be more accessible to ECS and on how ECS members can get organised and make the best use of available opportunities getting more involved in the union. I hope ECSs re-think Geosciences as open process of collaboration, sharing, exchange of ideas and skills in inspired way.

During the EGU 2016, I organised a meeting to which I invited scientists embarking on a career in natural hazards to share their research challenges, results on outreach efforts, and others forms of sciences that involve art, education, policy making, funding and so on. The outcome of the meeting was that we builta team of enthusiastic and motivated PhDs and post-docs who will work to build the NH Division ECS community, informally known as, NhET (Natural hazard Early career scientists Team). We will evaluate objectives, define goals, and create opportunities for ECSs to get involved in the NH scientific and professional community and within theEGU. In my vision, it could become the reference association for all the ECSs that work in this field and could work closely with national scientific associations, (in the field of NH).

Meet the team which makes up NhET (Natural hazard Early career scientists Team).

Meet the team which makes up NhET (Natural hazard Early career scientists Team).

What can your ECS Division members expect from the Natural Hazard Division in the 2017 General Assembly?

I encourage all ECSs to collaborate with the NhET team in the organisation of sessions, short course and other outreach activities. At EGU 2017, we plan to promote and publicised sessions and activities of relevance to ECS, such as the NH Division meeting, ECS Forum, and so on. In addition we will support the organisation of the incoming activities (in particular sessions and topical meeting on open data, models and publications, or geo-policy and other outreach emerging topics). Among the numerous activities that we are planning for EGU 2017, we will organize a PICO session, (principally for ECSs), which will be a platform to share ideas, research challenges, outreach and education activities. We are also planning a short course on the open-source and open data model.

To keep up to date with all GA related developments I can suggest attendees check the EGU’s official social media and the EGU website and, in particular,  the pages  dedicated to ECSs and the NH Division page.

How can those wanting to, get involved with the EGU?
EGU has a long history of actively supporting ECSs by providing reduced conference fees, recognising outstanding students, and awarding travel grants. Moreover, the ECS Representatives are giving more visibility to this big community within the EGU. Hence, I invite ECSs to follow theNH Division on Facebook  and Twitter and you can also contact me via email.For more information you can also check the NH Division pages, where you can find job openings, information on awards, publications, meetings and much more. Stay tuned for the upcoming call for the creation of the NH blog.

To find out about all the early career events and activities at the General Assembly and throughout the year be sure to check the dedicated ECS website. There, you’ll also be able to find out who you’re Division ECS representative is, if you’d like to get in touch with them and become involved in the Union. The website also hosts a page full of useful resources for career development as well as a database of undergraduate and postgraduate courses spanning the geosciences across Europe.

Imaggeo on Mondays: Coastal erosion

Imaggeo on Mondays: Coastal erosion

Coastlines take a battering from stormy seas, gales, windy conditions and every-day wave action. The combined effect of these processes shapes coastal landscapes across the globe.

In calm weather, constructive waves deposit materials eroded elsewhere and transported along the coast line via longshore-drift, onto beaches, thus building them up. Terrestrial material, brought to beaches by rivers and the wind, also contribute.  In stormy weather, waves become destructive, eroding material away from beaches and sea cliffs.

In some areas, the removal of material far exceeds the quantity of sediments being supplied to sandy stretches, leading to coastal erosion. It is a dynamic process, with the consequences depending largely on the geomorphology of the coast.

Striking images of receding coastlines, where households once far away from a cliff edge, tumble into the sea after a storm surge, are an all too familiar consequence of the power of coastal erosion.

In sandy beaches where dunes are common, coastal erosion can be managed by the addition of vegetation. In these settings, it is not only the force of the sea which drives erosion, but also wind, as the fine, loose sand grains are easily picked-up by the breeze, especially in blustery weather.

Grasses, such as the ones pictured in this week’s featured imaggeo image, work by slowing down wind speeds across the face of the dunes and trapping and stabilising wind-blown sands. The grasses don’t directly prevent erosion, but they do allow greater accumulation of sands over short periods of time, when compared to vegetation-free dunes.

Imaggeo is the EGU’s online open access geosciences image repository. All geoscientists (and others) can submit their photographs and videos to this repository and, since it is open access, these images can be used for free by scientists for their presentations or publications, by educators and the general public, and some images can even be used freely for commercial purposes. Photographers also retain full rights of use, as Imaggeo images are licensed and distributed by the EGU under a Creative Commons licence. Submit your photos at

GeoPolicy: 8 science-based projects improving regions in the EU

GeoPolicy: 8 science-based projects improving regions in the EU

As scientists, it can sometimes be difficult to see the real-world implications of some of our research. Concepts can often seem abstract and remote when sitting in a lab or taking field measurements. But researching the Earth sciences can have profound effects on global society. Understanding how the natural world works can help protect and improve human, animal, and plant life. This month’s GeoPolicy post (part of the European Geosciences Union GeoLog Blog) highlights EU funded projects that have their foundations in the Earth sciences.

EU member states can apply for regional project funding that aims to improve living standards for the residents living within that region. Projects can be technology, medicine, environment, or social-science based. This post highlights 8 projects that have resulted from earth-science research. Scroll down to see what projects are going on in your country, or your area of science. A full list of EU funded projects can be found here and more information on the EU regional development fund can be found on their website.


Preventing coastal erosion in Southern France

Coastal erosion causes coastlines to collapse and retreat landward. This can have damaging effects on local residents, or on those who use the coast for recreational activities. In the Mediterranean, beaches are sustained by sediment supplied from river deltas. Erosion can occur when less river sediment is transported to the coasts. This can occur when there has been a decrease in the frequency of major floods, catchment reforestation, dam construction, or dredging activities1.

The EU funded a project to protect coastal regions in the South of France; an area popular for tourists and local residents alike. Amongst other initiatives, which included infrastructure changes, a dune ridge was re-established to protect the beach and coastal area.


River adaptation to fight flash floods in Spain

The Simat region, located on the East coast of Spain, near Valenciana, is often subjected to flash flooding as it is situated between mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. Flash floods caused by heavy autumn rains burst river banks and have a devastating effect on the surrounding villages.

EU funding provided both ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ flood defences for the Valenciana region. Soft river defences use natural resources and local knowledge to protect residents from flooding. A region upstream of Simet was reclaimed for flood plains and the river was widened. To complement this, a canal system (an example of a hard defence strategy) was constructed further downstream.


Energy Efficiency: Recovering heat to produce thermal energy in Greece

Increasing energy efficiency is a key objective for the European Union: there is a specific EU Directive that focuses entirely on improving energy usage. By 2020, the EU aims to have saved roughly the equivalent of 400 power stations-worth of energy2.

Florina, a city in mainland Greece, has been awarded EU funding for a project aimed to distribute unused heat energy from power stations to 23,000 local residents. Surplus heat will be piped as ‘superheated water’ to local homes and businesses. As well as improving energy efficiency, this project is expected to cut water-related greenhouse gas emissions by 88%, as hot water will no longer be heated by traditional oil and gas combustion methods.


Improving groundwater quality in Poland

Groundwater is a lifeline to supplying Europe with freshwater. Over 300 million EU citizens get their drinking water from these subsurface water deposits. Unfortunately, groundwater can become contaminated making it unfit to be consumed, and endanger aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. This can happen when septic systems that are not connected to modern sewer systems leak bacteria, viruses, and chemicals into the environment.

An EU funded project for the Poznań region in Poland is protecting local groundwater supplies by improving wastewater treatment networks, which will benefit almost 736,000 local inhabitants. The construction of an integrated water and wastewater monitoring system helps to protect residents as well as the surrounding ecosystems.


Micro-hydropower plants in the UK and Ireland

The world needs to shift to non-carbon based energy generation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The EU aims to achieve 20% energy generation from renewable sources by 2020 (2012 levels stood at 11%)3. Renewable energy sources include hydropower, geothermal, wind energy, solar energy, and biomass. Hydropower is commonly generated through dam structures, where flowing water passes through a turbine. An alternative method is to take surplus electrical energy from the grid and use it to pump water to elevated ground, therefore storing it as potential energy to be used later.

A common method within water supply systems is to use pressurised pumps to transport water to the pipeline network. Excess pressure is often vented, releasing unused energy into the atmosphere. A recently funded EU project aims to create hydro-energy from these supply systems by installing micro-hydropower plants on the ventilation valves. The generated electricity can be used to reduce conventional energy consumption. The project has been funded for regions in Wales and Ireland, however it is thought this technology could be expanded across Europe and beyond.


Turning copper to gold: mining in Portugal

Raw materials, including minerals and rare-earth elements, are used in infrastructure, renewable energy resources, agriculture, and telecommunications. The vast majority of these resources are imported to the EU, and very few mineral mines are located within Europe. It is important to improve the security of supply by either increasing internal supply or reducing the need for these materials.

The Alentejo region in Portugal is located on the Iberian pyrite belt, a geological zone rich in mineral deposits. Mining has occurred for many centuries and the region currently employs over 500 people. Funds have been awarded to develop the mine’s capabilities to increase its output of copper ore, whilst continuing to meet EU environmental standards.


Adapting water management to climate change in Denmark and Germany

Greenhouse gases absorb radiated energy from the Earth and re-radiate this as heat; raising global temperatures. This results in ice caps and glaciers melting and causes rising sea levels. Low-lying countries are now experiencing greater flooding episodes and increasing storm surges (another effect of manmade climate change). The Syddanmark region in Denmark and the Schleswig-Holstein region in Germany was awarded EU funding to assess and reduce the damage new flooding has on these areas. After discussions with professionals, politicians and members of the public, it was decided to develop a hydrological model to assess the future impacts flooding would have. The model was able to highlight where dikes should be relocated and retention areas be created to reduce negative flooding impacts. Additionally, the resulting changes showed positive biodiversity effects in these new areas from the temporary flooding.


Establishing a commercial spaceport in Sweden

Space research and exploration does more than simply try to answer overarching questions about life, the solar system, and beyond. The research and development driven by space science and exploration have led to inventions that are now used to help us in our daily lives. The ESA has a portfolio of ~450 inventions, covering areas such as optics, robotics, and electrical power. The development of the so-called “second space age” is seeing private space companies contributing to research and innovation, as well as providing opportunities for more commercial space flights.

The Kiruna region, in Northern Sweden, established an international space and research ground-station over 50 years ago. The station hosts rocket and balloon launches, satellite monitoring, new space and flight systems testing, and multiple ground-based space measurements. A project has been funded to transform the Kiruna centre into a ‘fully functioning spaceport’ to develop new products, services, research, and education.


More information about EU project funding and where it is allocated can be found on the European Commission website.



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