SeismoChat: How to disarm earthquakes

SeismoChat: How to disarm earthquakes

Solmaz Mohajder is a researcher at the Earth System Dynamics Research group of University of Tübingen in Germany. She has published an online database and an interactive map for active faults in Central Asia (Mohajder et al., 2016).  More recently, Solmaz and her colleagues have compiled fault slip rates to investigate whether deformation rates from GPS and from geologic observations provide consistent slip rate information at the orogen scale (Mohadjer et al., 2017). In 2016, Solmaz was awarded an EGU Public Engagement grant.

The current call for applications for the EGU Public Engagement grant closes on February 15! See this page for more information.

Recently, Solmaz has described her work for and with the Public Engagement Grant on GeoLog. We have taken the opportunity to ask her about factors that shaped her career so far.

Please tell us about your research interests!

My research focuses on quantifying natural hazards using a variety of different techniques such as GPS geodesy and terrestrial remote sensing (Lidar), and making research results available to those at risk through geohazards education and community outreach.

In how many countries did you live/work up to now? How has living in many countries reshaped your way of doing research?

I have stopped counting. I was born and raised in Iran and spent most of my life living in the US (Pacific Northwest) and Germany with one year in Tajikistan.

I learned and embraced the culture of volunteerism, community outreach and education for the first time in the United States. As an undergrad at the University of Washington, I volunteered with the Pipeline Project as a science/math tutor in Seattle public schools, immigrant/refugee community centers and correctional facilities in my neighborhood. I then took my newly-discovered passion and skills for science, education and outreach to the University of Montana. I combined scientific research with science education and outreach as part of my Master program, for example working on an earthquake education curriculum for K-12 schools (Mohadjer et al., 2010) and on quantifying the deformation field in Central Asia (Mohadjer et al., 2010).

But it wasn’t until I was asked questions by those I met in places like Pakistan and Tajikistan, particularly children, that I became aware of the importance of my research in practical life. Simple yet important questions such as “What is an earthquake?”, “How does it affect me?” or “What to do about them?” kept me up at night, and eventually shaped the way I’ve been doing research since 2006.


You have published a paper about “A Quaternary fault database for central Asia”. Tell us something about your work: What is the general context of this study?

To calculate and map seismic hazard, it’s essential to know where the active faults are and how they behave. The Quaternary fault database for Central Asia improves access to this kind of information through a web-based interactive map and an online database with search capabilities that allow users to organize data by different fields. The database can be accessed here.

It took about 2 years to build and populate the database. The work involved reviewing over 250 published papers and compiling three large sets of data: fault locations (~1196 traces of faults), fault attributes (for 123 faults) and seismicity (>34,000 earthquakes). But what you see on the site is subject to change based on community’s feedback.

What was the main motivation for this work?

The project was inspired by my interactions with the general public, their curiosity, and genuine concern for earthquakes. In Tübingen, Germany, I continue to make and take opportunities to interact with the public through events such as TEDx Stuttgart (e.g. How to disarm earthquakes) and by developing educational videos that can be shared globally (e.g., earthquake video library project).      

What is new with respect to previous similar studies?

We have access to a large amount of data on active faulting in Central Asia, but these data are often documented in a wide range of formats (digital, text, maps, etc.) and published in non-open access journals. This makes data access and dissemination difficult especially for non-academic users and the general public. This project provides an open-access and searchable database that includes an interactive fault map. It allows users to run queries (e.g., what are the faults located near I live?) and access important fault parameters such as slip rates and earthquake history.  

What are your hopes for the impact that it might have on science/society in general?

My hope is that local and intentional organizations working in Central Asia (especially those involved in development-related projects) consider fault location and parameters in their project analysis.

What will be the next step in the project?

The next steps may include: addition of new fault information (e.g., fault geometry, recurrence interval, slip/strain rate maps), as well as information from existing landslide and flood inventories for the region. We also hope to include geo-thermochronology data for catchment mass fluxes and fault offsets.   

You are last year’s EGU public Engagement Grant Awardee!

— Can you tell us more about what you did with this grant?

This grant has helped us produce 10 earthquake education videos covering topics that range from Earth’s interior and plate tectonics to liquefaction and structural hazards. These videos are designed to translate seemingly abstract or banal concepts into easily accessible, practical and potentially life-saving information. The production involved young scientists from several universities across the UK and Germany, and is endorsed by institutions such as the MIT BLOSSOMS, Teachers Without Borders, and Geology for Global Development. Most of these videos are currently available for viewing and download on the EGU Media channel– The remaining 2 are in production right now.

Do you have tips for other ECS on how to turn their science useful to the public?

Talk to the public and listen to their comments and questions, and take them seriously. Often, the public will tell you (or at least hint at) how you can make your work more relevant and useful to them. I’d suggest start with family members and friends and think twice about turning down a public speaking opportunity that you’ve been offered.

As a conclusion, what was the most helpful advice you have ever got for your scientific work/career and who gave it to you?

“Don’t kill or get killed” is a really important advice for those who work in remote and potentially dangerous parts of the world. Also “always save your data before you do anything else” because if you die, at least there’s a chance for someone else to use your data. Words of a role model, friend, colleague and an adviser.  

Thank you for the seismochat!

The open-access active fault database project:

Would you like to share the passion for your science in a seismochat? Contact us at

Edited by ECS representatives Redouane Chimouni, Koen van Noten, Lucia Gualtieri, Laura Ermert

New Early Career Scientist representatives wanted

Young scientists meeting corner at EGU General Assembly

The EGU seismology division is looking to elect a new enthusiastic team of early career scientist (ECS) representatives from the beginning of May. If you are a PhD or Postdoc, why not consider taking up this role?

Why should you consider becoming an ECS representative?

Producing innovative science is the first and foremost task of any early career scientist. However, this work is embedded in the scientific community that shapes its course through conferences, workshops, and collaborations. If you are interested in contributing actively to a lively European seismology community, you should consider becoming an ECS rep.

Besides the chance to be active in the Europe’s largest geoscience organization, being an ECS rep can be a great networking and team play experience. Depending on the activities you choose to undertake, it will broaden your scientific horizon, enable you to meet established scientists, or sharpen your science communication skills. Here you can find a description of the ECS role, and in this interview with Wouter Berghuijs, the union level ECS representative, you can read more about the importance of ECS reps.

What are typical tasks of the ECS representatives?

  • To be the first point of contact for ECS-related issues to EGU members and offices
  • To organize a social gathering for Early Career (&other) seismologists at the General Assembly
  • To coordinate and edit the seismology division blog and social media pages, currently Facebook and Twitter

Further activities in the past period included:

  • A short course “Seismology for non-seismologists” at EGU GA 2017, convened by ECS rep. Koen Van Noten with support of co-conveners from the ECS team and beyond;
  • A panel on “Career paths in and out of Academia” organized by ECS reps. Laura Parisi and Lucia Gualtieri. This took place during the 3rd TIDES training school in Oxford;
  • Visibility surveys and posters on the activity of the ECS reps at several conferences;

Of course, each and every representative’s creative ideas are most welcome to extend this list.

Will it affect your work?

Especially PhD students may worry that the ECS role takes too much time away from their scientific work. This is one of the reasons that a team will be elected, so that work can be shared and the workload as ECS rep. becomes manageable. In past two years, we (the current ECS team) have experienced that working together also led to scientific discussions beyond each one’s own expertise, which greatly improved our individual knowledge and led to some unexpected scientific collaborations. So being a Seismology Division ECS representative even enriches your scientific work.

Who can become an ECS rep?

Anyone EGU member who is a PhD student or scientist who has received his or her highest degree (BSc, MSc, or PhD) within the past seven years (with possible extension for parental leave).

How to become an ECS rep?

The ECS reps will be elected at this year’s general assembly (8-13 April 2018). Personal presence at the conference is not a requirement, so don’t worry if you are not going to make it to Vienna. If you are interested in taking on this role, send an email with a short motivation statement and your CV to Martin Mai, the Seismology Division President: and Laura Parisi, current head of ECS team: ecs-sm[at] Don’t even hesitate to contact them with questions!


Edited by ECS reps Laura Ermert, Laura Parisi and Koen Van Noten.

Crowdsourcing in Europe: how to share macroseismic data of felt earthquakes ?

Crowdsourcing in Europe: how to share macroseismic data of felt earthquakes ?
“Did you feel the earthquake ?”     “Avez-vous ressenti un tremblement de Terre?”      “Erdbeben gespürt?”
         ” Følte du siste jordskjelv?”            “Sentiu um Sismo?”
“Ha sentido algún terremoto?”      “Pocítili ste zemetrasenie?”      “Hai Sentito il Terremoto?”
“почувствахте ли земетресение?”

Technical workshop on internet macroseismology: a reflection

14-15 November 2017, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Last week 41 European seismologists from 19 organisations gathered at ARSO in Ljubljana (Slovenia) to discuss on a solution how macroseismic data, i.e. earthquake intensity data derived from felt earthquake reports, could be better collected and exchanged between seismological institutes in the future. The European and Mediterranean situation is quite complex as at least 36 seismological institutes (see below) in 24 countries all collect felt reports using their own or a standardised online questionnaire or using a smartphone app. When an earthquake is only felt within the border of one country, likely only one responsible national institute (except in Germany or Spain) will have all the data and can properly map the earthquake impact. However, in case of cross-border felt earthquakes, the gathering of macroseismic data is fragmented between different institutes who are all responsible for the macroseismic information in their country. Hence, sharing intensity values derived from online questionnaires is essential and would strongly facilitate mapping the impact of transfrontier-felt earthquakes in the future.

During the workshop 17 studies (see list) on national and international methodologies, objectives, collecting systems and case studies were presented. Currently, apart from rapid information about the felt area from EMSC and a few cross-border initiatives, there is no coordinated and comprehensive system to collect, interpret and present macroseismic data on a European level. During the discussion numerous ideas were exchanged how to harmonise the data to facilitate the exchange. It was decided to develop a new proposal for an ESC (European Seismological Commission) working group that can concentrate on these challenges in macroseismic data exchange in Europe, and to propose a special session dedicated to Internet Macroseismology at the forthcoming ESC General Assembly in Malta (2-7 Sep 2018).

The workshop was organised by Ina Cecić (ARSO) and Rémy Bossu (EMSC) with the support from EPOS.

Let’s give macroseismology in Europe a face. Earthquakes don’t stop at political or language borders.

Participants to the workshop. Source: ARSO: (14 Nov 2017)

Following studies were presented:

  • Bossu R. (EMSC) Collecting felt reports of Global Earthquakes at EMSC:  How and Why?
  • Landes M. (EMSC) From eyewitnesses to seismological services.
  • Šket Motnikar B. & Cerk M. (ARSO, IZV, Slovenia) Overview of database structure and macroseismic assessment through web application in Slovenia.
  • De Rubeis, V. & Tosi, P. (INGV, Italy) The experience of crowdsourced web macroseismic intensity investigation in Italy:  evolution, results, problems and perspectives.
  • Pazak P. (ESI SAS, Slovakia) Slovak web-based questionnaire for macroseismic data collection.
  • Rønnevik C. (UniB, Norway) Integration of Norwegian Macroseismic Data into EPOS e-Infrastructure.
  • Schlupp A. & Sira C. (BCSF EOST, France) BCSF macroseismic data collection for French territories, and their exchange and merging for earthquakes affecting different countries.
  • Horn N. (ZAMG, Austria) Webservices for the distribution of macroseismic data.
  • Sović I. & Ivančić I. (GO PMF, Croatia) Macroseismic data collected in Croatia by internet.
  • Kaiser D. (BGR, Germany) Collecting macroseismic data in Germany by internet – an overview.
  • Musson R. (by Cecić I.) (BGS, UK) Implementing the EMS for online intensity.
  • Moldovan I.A. (NIEP, Romania) Internet macroseismology in Romania.
  • Alves P.M. & Marreiros, C. (IPMA, Portugal) Overview of the methods and results related with macroseismic web-questionnaires at IPMA – Portugal
  • Sbarra P. (INGV, Italy) Macroseismic diagnostics anomalies some practical examples.
  • Beinersdorf S. (BUniW, Germany) Shakemaps for Central Europe implementing macroseismic observations
  • Van Noten K. & Lecocq T. (ROB, GSB, Belgium) Merging transfrontier internet macroseismic data of earthquakes in NW Europe using a grid cell approach
  • Batlló J., Jara J.A., Irizarry J. & Figueras S. (ICGC) Macroseismics in Cataloni

European institutes

In below an overview is given of all European institutes that organise a macroseismic online survey (or in their overseas departments). Apologies if any survey would have been forgotten. Please contact us for mistakes. This list is constructed to give Macroseismology more visibility and to create some transparency in this labyrinth of data collection.

Source: Solid Earth 8(2)

Andorra: CENMA, Unit for Environmental studies: Enquesta Sísmica (Catalan)

Austria: Zentralanstalt für Meteorologie und Geodynamik (ZAMG): Erdbeben gespürt?

Belgium – Germany: Transfrontier collaboration between the Royal Observatory of Belgium and the University of Cologne (Erdbebenstation Bensberg): Avez-vous ressenti un tremblement de Terre?  /  Heeft u de aardbeving gevoeld?  /  Haben Sie ein Erdbeben gespürt / Did you Feel the earthquake?

Bulgary: National institute in Geophysics, Geodesy and Geography:  ВЪПРОСНИК ЗА УСЕТЕНО ЗЕМЕТРЕСЕНИЕ

Czech Republic: Uses the international EMSC inquiry. I just felt an earthquake

Denmark: Geological survey of Denmark and Greenland: Indberetning af jordskælv

Finland: University of Helsinki : Ilmoitus maanjäristyshavainnoista (Finnish) / Skicka Din rapport om jordskalvet (Swedish)

France: Le Bureau Central Sismologique Français (BCSF) : Avez-vous ressenti un tremblement de Terre?


Greece: Uses the international EMSC inquiry. I just felt an earthquake

Hungary: Hungary Earthquake Information System: Amennyiben Ön is érezte a földrengést, kérjük töltse ki kérdőívünket!

Iceland: Icelandic Met Office : Tilkynna jarðskjálfta

Ireland: Dublin Institute for advanced sciences: Have you felt an earthquake

Italy:  Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV): Hai Sentito il Terremoto?

Malta: University of Malta: Did you feel an earthquake?

Norway: Norwegian National Seismic Network – University of Bergen: Følte du siste jordskjelv?

Portugal: Instituto Português do mar e da atmosfera: Sentiu um Sismo?

Romania: National Institute for Earth Physics : L-ai simtit?

Slovakia: Bratislava Geophysical Institute: Pocítili ste zemetrasenie na Slovensku?

Slovenia: Slovenian Environment Agency :  Potresi – vprašalnik


Switzerland: Swiss Seismological Service: “Did You Feel an earthquake?” (also available in French, German, English and Italian)

Sweden: Svenska nationella seismiska nätet – Uppsala Universitet: Har du känt av ett jordskalv?

The Netherlands: Koninklijk Nederlands Meteorologisch Instituut (KNMI): Heeft u een aardbeving gevoeld?

United Kingdom: British Geological Survey (BGS): Have you felt an earthquake?

Global: European–Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC): Have you felt an earthquake?

By Koen Van Noten
Koen Van Noten is an earthquake geologist at the Geological Survey of Belgium (previously Royal Observatory of Belgium). He investigates the influence of site effects on intraplate earthquake ground motions using intensity data of felt earthquakes and near-surface geophysical techniques. Koen’s role as ECS is to encourage students to promote their results in seismology, geology and near-surface geophysics in various ways.

Seismology for non-seismologists

Short Course at EGU2017, organized by the ECS-Team of the Seismology Division
: SC76/SM10.11 – Seismology for non-seismologists
Time: Thursday 27 April, 13:30 – 15:00
Location: Room -2.91

This short course is dedicated to non-seismologists, with a particular focus for young scientists (graduates, PhD students and postdocs). The main goal of this short course is to provide an introduction into the basic concepts and methods in seismology and how these methods are applicable to investigate the near-surface and Earth’s interior. The course will highlight the role that advanced seismological analysis techniques can play in the co-interpretation of results from other fields in the geosciences, such as tectonics, physics, geology, geodynamics, volcanology and hydrology.

The topics covered this year will include
(1) what and how seismologists measure in land and at sea by Laura Parisi and Alba Gil.
(2) how seismologists study earthquake sources and how these studies relate to seismic hazard by Olaf Zielke.
(3) how seismologists image the interior of the Earth with and without earthquakes by Marco Galo and Nienke Blom.

We likely won’t turn you into a seismologist in 90 minutes, but would rather like to make you aware how seismological techniques can help you in geoscience. The intention is to discuss each topic in a non-technical manner, emphasizing their respective strengths and potential shortcomings. Not only will this course help non-seismologists to better understand seismic results but it will also facilitate more enriched discussion between different scientific disciplines.

The 90-minute short course will be run by fellow young seismologists and geoscientists, who will present examples from their own research and from reference papers for illustration. 15-20 minutes will be reserved for questions from the audience on the topics covered by the short course and general seismology.

By Koen Van Noten
Koen Van Noten is an earthquake geologist at the Geological Survey of Belgium. He investigates the influence of site effects on intraplate earthquake ground motions by Did You Feel It?” macroseismic data and near-surface geophysical techniques. Koen’s role as ECS is to encourage students to promote their results in seismology, geology and near-surface geophysics in various ways.