ERC Synergy grant for RWTH Researchers


Pushing the limits of earthquake predictions

© Peter Winandy

The United States Geological Survey registered over 1800 earthquakes of different magnitudes in 2018. Earthquakes are one of the most significant hazards for human society, and at the same time, they remain challenging to predict. Despite decades of intense research, scientists are still unable to forecast with accuracy where and when the phenomenon will occur and tell in advance its magnitude. The lack of appropriate experimental facilities for observing earthquakes at close hand hampers the more in-depth understanding of the fundamental physics at play.

The construction of the new underground experimental facility in the Bedretto tunnel may offer a unique opportunity to perform fault simulation and earthquake experiments on a scale and depth not available until now. A multidisciplinary team of researchers funded by the European Research Council will conduct the first-ever program that will push back the current limits of earthquake predictability.

The project will benefit from complementary but unique competencies and synergies from four leading scientists in the domain: Prof. Dr Domenico Giardini, Chair of Seismology and Geodynamics at the ETH Zürich. Prof. Florian Amann, Chair of Engineering Geology at RWTH Aachen specialised in geomechanical processes associated with natural hazards, enhanced geothermal systems and clay shales on all scales. Prof Dr Massimo Cocco, Director of Research at the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, expert focused on the physics of earthquakes and faults. Prof Dr Stefan Wiemer, Chair of Seismology and Director of the Swiss Seismology Service (SED), works on the effects of earthquakes and investigates which processes in the earth’s crust trigger these events.

Project: Fault Activation and Earthquake Rupture (FEAR)
Funding: € 13,797,250 million for 72 months
Host Institutions: ETH Zürich (Domenico Giardini and Stefan Wiemer), RWTH Aachen University (Florian Amann) and National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (Massimo Cocco)