Our World

Back to all
Insights

Harnessing the power of satellites to curb the impact of earthquakes

Leading academics and insurance industry experts gathered at Lloyd’s of London recently to investigate how observing earth from space is giving us a better understanding of earthquake risk.

With terrible images from the Mexico earthquake still fresh in memory, few need reminding of the terrible consequences of earthquakes and the pressing need to reduce the impact they have on people’s lives.  

Sponsored by MS Amlin, the Earthquakes from Space event was an opportunity to share knowledge and insights into how we can use satellite technology to calculate and manage risk.

The insurance industry relies heavily on catastrophe modelling to calculate risk. The latest science updates from the United States Geological Survey and catastrophe model releases have given fresh impetus to the topic of earth observation from space and its significance for earthquake modelling.

Damage assessment
Satellite technology is being used to understand seismic hazards and reduce the risks from disasters. After an earthquake, it helps the insurance industry assess the damage quickly so it can take appropriate action.

Dr. Tina Thomson, MS Amlin Research Manager, and one of the event organisers said:

“This was a rare opportunity to bring together leading figures in the catastrophe modelling world to discuss how we can use satellite technology to improve our understanding of earthquake risks and improve our response to disasters when they happen.

“All in all it was a great success and gave us much food for thought about how we channel emerging technologies to improve our knowledge and understanding of earthquake risks.”

 

Notable contributions

Several notable speakers attended the event, sharing their views on earthquake imagery from space and its application in the (re)insurance industry:

 

Dr. Rashmin Gunasekera

Disaster Risk Management Specialist World Bank

 

 

World Bank is using satellite technology to generate quicker, more accurate estimates of earthquake damage. This enables mobilisation of funds and the creation and implementation of disaster management plans.

 

Prof. Stuart Marsh

Professor of Geospatial Engineering, Deputy Director of Nottingham Geospatial Institute and Director of Postgraduate Research, Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham

Increased coordination of earth observation through the intergovernmental organisation, Group on Earth Observations (GEO), which has 105 member countries, is supporting the forecasting and preparation for disasters, to mitigate damage and to better manage and recover from disasters. Technological advances are providing a much deeper and more sophisticated understanding of potential hazards.

 

Prof. Tim J. Wright

Professor of Satellite Geodesy, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds and Director of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Centre for the Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tectonics (COMET)

 


Shared examples of how scientists in the Centre for the Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tectonics (COMET) are using satellite observations of earth’s topography and deformation to transform our understanding of earthquake hazard.

"We are now seeing complexity in earthquake sources that we are only beginning to understand and mapping the distribution of strain across entire mountain belts for the first time. These data are changing the way that we think about fault zones. This new understanding has clear implications for seismic hazard assessment.”

 

Dr Timothy Ancheta

RMS - a leading risk modelling and analytics firm

Outlined new mapping methodology that is answering unexpected questions. These include, how has the built environment changed the liquefaction risk and how we can improve community resilience by discouraging the future development in areas prone to earthquake risks.

 

Dr. Rachel Holley
NPA Satellite Mapping

An increased understanding of the faults affecting the Los Angeles basin has become increasingly pertinent to discussions regarding current and future land use and development across the city.

 

Charles K. Huyck

Executive Vice President ImageCat

 

Satellite imagery is now being used to calculate cost of replacing buildings to help identify the relationship to how much a property is insured.  This is in conjunction with geospatial data from surveys, and using Geographical Information Systems (GIS), to inform robust exposure datasets.

 

Gareth Crisford

Earth-I satellite data provider

 

High quality images of affected areas, sites which can now be revisited multiple times a day by the latest satellites.  This provides a valuable insight and understanding of the scale of the insured losses.

 

Forbes McKenzie

Managing Director and Founder McKenzie Intelligence Services (MIS)

 

 

The use of imagery expertise accumulated by the military provides near real time reporting on natural catastrophes to (re)insurers. Working with Lloyd’s of London, MIS enable damage assessment based on structural damage scales from low fidelity to zip code and individual properties.

 

Earthquakes from space: earth observation for quantifying earthquake risks, took place in the Old Library, Lloyds of London, on September 25. It was organised by the Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society (RSPSoc), The Association for Geographic Information (AGI) and the Royal Geographical Society. It was sponsored by MS Amlin, RMS and Impact Forecasting.

You may also be interested in...

How insurance response models can improve flood predictions

How insurance models can improve flood predictions

Five possible ways to solve the ‘autopilot problem’

Five possible ways to solve the ‘autopilot problem’