Home Sciences The south of Spain, among the European regions most threatened by earthquakes

The south of Spain, among the European regions most threatened by earthquakes


The south of Spain and Portugal, together with the west of Turkey, Greece, Albania, Romania, are the European regions with the highest earthquake threat, while Istanbul and Izmir in Turkey, Catania and Naples in Italy, Bucharest in Romania and Athens in Greece , are the cities with the greatest risks for their structures.

Coinciding in time with the earthquake that shook Murcia today, European scientists have updated a threat map of earthquakes and, for the first time, have created a risk map seismic for Europe. The threat refers to the estimation of seismic movements. Risk refers to the consequences of a seismic process on a system or structure.

During the 20th century, earthquakes in Europe caused more than 200,000 deaths and more than 250 billion euros in losses. Comprehensive earthquake hazard and risk assessments are crucial to reducing the effects of catastrophic earthquakes, because earthquakes cannot be accurately prevented or predicted.

An international team of European seismologists, geologists and engineers, supported by members of the Swiss Seismological Service and the ETH Zurich Seismology and Geodynamics Group, reviewed the seismic hazard model which exists since 2013 and created the first earthquake risk model for all of Europe.

better preparation

The update of the earthquake hazard model, and the first seismic risk model for Europe, are the basis for establishing mitigation measures and making communities more resilient.

Both studies significantly improve understanding of where strong tremors are most likely to occur and the possible effects of future earthquakes in Europe.

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All underlying data sets have been updated and harmonized in this study, a complex task given the large amount of data and the great diversity of tectonic settings in Europe.

double focus

This two-pronged approach, which includes hazard and risk, is crucial for establishing effective transnational disaster mitigation strategies, supporting the definition of insurance policies, or defining up-to-date building codes at European and national levels.

Earthquake hazard describes possible ground movement due to future landslides, and is based on knowledge about past earthquakes, geology, tectonics and local site conditions anywhere in Europe.

The historical data sets incorporated in the new version of the model have led to a more comprehensive assessment of earthquake hazard across Europe.

Accordingly, ground motion estimates have been adjusted, resulting in lower estimates in most of Europe, compared to the 2013 model.

Direct threats and risks

With the exception of some regions in western Turkey, Greece, Albania, Romania, southern Spain and southern Portugal, where higher estimates of ground shaking are observed, the updated model confirms that Turkey, Greece, Albania, Italy and Romania are the countries with biggest earthquake threat in Europefollowed by the other Balkan countries, even in regions with low or moderate estimates of ground shaking.

According to the European Seismic Risk Model 2020 (ESRM20), buildings built before the 1980s and urban areas mainly drive the risk seismic.

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Although most European countries have recent design codes and standards that ensure adequate protection against earthquakes, there are still many old buildings that are unreinforced or insufficiently reinforced, posing a high risk to their inhabitants.

Endangered urban areas

The greatest risk of earthquakes accumulates in urban areassuch as the cities of Istanbul and Izmir in Turkey, Catania and Naples in Italy, Bucharest in Romania, and Athens in Greece, many of which have a history of damaging earthquakes.

In fact, these four countries alone experience almost 80% of the modeled average annual economic loss of €7 billion due to earthquakes in Europe.

However, also cities such as Zagreb (Croatia), Tirana (Albania), Sofia (Bulgaria), Lisbon (Portugal), Brussels (Belgium) and Basel (Switzerland), have a higher than average level of seismic risk, compared to cities less exposed, such as Berlin (Germany), London (United Kingdom) or Paris (France).

Joint effort

This work has been developed by a core team of researchers from different institutions across Europe, an effort that began more than 30 years ago and involved thousands of people from across Europe. These efforts have been funded by various European projects and supported by national groups over the years.

The development of the European 2020 seismic hazard and risk models has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

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