UCL Global


Breaking news for earthquakes

Integrating field and laboratory results with earthquake rupture simulations to study damage and ground motion. Part of the Cities partnership Programme.

13 September 2022

During an earthquake rupture, energy stored by 100s to 1000s of years of tectonic loading is released in the timespan of milliseconds to seconds, analogous to the snapping of a rubber band when stretched too much.

This energy has to go somewhere, which are three processes in the case of an earthquake:

  1. Seismic waves radiate through the earth’s crust where they cause potentially devastating shaking (analogous to the soundwaves responsible for the audible snap of our rubber band). Seismologists study these seismic waves,
  2. Energy is used to heat the rock when they slide past each other at high velocity during the earthquake (similar to quickly rubbing your hands), a phenomenon that has been well studied by performing laboratory experiments,
  3. Energy released by the earthquake causes breaking and fracturing of the rock around the fault. This energy sink is studied by geologists and experimentalists, and is key in assessing how much energy is available for seismic waves and the ground shaking they cause.

This project hopes to use rupture simulation code to better understand these geological processes. This activity involves a scientific collaboration with the two partners in Paris. The research project will take place across several meetings in Paris and at UCL, aimed at exchanging ideas, data, results, and modelling codes and practices to effectively integrate lab results and field results into one data set. Hopefully, the insights and collaboration gained from this will accumulate in a manuscript for publication in an international peer-reviewed journal.


Earth Sciences

UCL lead

  • Dr Franciscus Aben, UCL Seismological Laboratory