Year of selection 2016
Institution Université de Liège
Strong ground motion is not the only hazard associated with earthquakes. Landslides induced by seismic activity, common in some regions of the world, have the potential to generate a disaster chain with catastrophic consequences. Large-scale landslides can, for instance, block rivers and threaten to flood communities living downstream. The 2015 earthquake in Nepal is a telling example of how devastating earthquake-induced landslides and their subsequent events can be. By shedding light on the complex mechanisms that generate these cascading geological hazards, Dr. Xuanmei Fan aims at a better understanding of how, where and when these events are likely to take place and to affect populations. Her research ultimately seeks to provide insight on how to mitigate these risks and improve resilience.
Developing a model to assess and even predict the risks associated with earthquake-induced cascading geological hazards
« My work is to assess how much damage an earthquake can cause, taking into account its domino effect », explains Dr. Xuanmei Fan. « To be able to anticipate the evolution of an earthquake in space and time, I need to investigate the physical mechanisms of the hazard chain at a large scale ».
Building on the data she collected after the deadly Wenchuan earthquake of 2008, Dr. Xuanmei Fan
aims to derive a mechanistic understanding of how earthquake-induced landslides develop into multiple natural hazards. The model will help assess the occurrence probability of such a disaster chain by incorporating several components such as magnitude and frequency of the earthquakes, geology, terrain and climatic conditions. In addition, Dr. Xuanmei Fan will also take into account the vulnerability of communities and infrastructures to each kind of potential landslide-induced hazards. To achieve these objectives, Dr. Xuanmei Fan will couple field observations with satellite-based images and laboratory analysis.
Given that earthquake-induced landslides exhibit complex spatio-temporal behavior, the knowledge that will emerge from this project will be invaluably useful for the timely detection and even prediction of the cascading geological hazards. Not only will it be be beneficial to the research community, but also to the public and government for adopting suitable mitigation measures. « What we learn from the data collected in China will also be helpful for other landslide-prone regions such as Europe », Dr. Xuanmei Fan specifies. Incidentally, the researcher already planned for her risk assessment method and knowledge to be tested for the seismic region of Vrancea in the Carpathian Mountains in Europe.