Commission Meeting, August 24, 2001 in Hanoi

The IASPEI Commission on Earthquake Hazard, Risk and Strong Ground Motion held its open meeting on August 24, 2001 during the IAGA-IASPEI Joint Assembly in Hanoi. There were 20 participants from Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India, Italy, Norway, Philippines, Romania, Russia, and United States attending the meeting. Prof. B. Kennett, president of IASPEI, participated in the meeting and gave a talk on the scope of the newly founded Commission on Earthquake Hazard, Risk and Strong Ground Motion. Five issues were discussed during the meeting, namely

  1. Organization of the publication of the special volume on earthquake hazard, risk and strong ground motion;
  2. Commission newsletters;
  3. Joint training programs;
  4. Developing of the programs for the IUGG 2003 Assembly in Sapporo; and
  5. Suggestions on the future of the study on strong ground motion and earthquake hazard and risk.

In response to the message on May 10 from Prof. E. R. Engdahl, IASPEI secretary-in-general, the potential of the publication of a special volume in Phys. Earth Planet. Interi. or Tectonophysics was discussed before and during the Assembly. Dr. K. Shedlock, Prof. G. F. Panza, and Prof. Y.-T. Chen accepted the invitation as guest editors of the proposed special volume. Up to the Commission meeting there were already 22 participants indicating that they are willing to contribute a paper to the special volume. The topic of the special volume is suggested to be ‘Strong Ground Motion, Earthquake Hazard and Risk in Alpine-Himalayas and Pacific Region’. The Commission will send the application for publication of the special volume to the IASPEI Executive Committee and Elsevier Science Publishing Company after the Assembly. The publication will be in cooperation with the ILP program on the effects of earthquakes on megacities. It was emphasized that whether or not the application be successful will to much extent depend on the number, and more importantly, quality of the papers contributed. Participants of the meeting agreed that publication of such a special volume will contribute to much extent to promoting the advancement in the study on strong ground motion, earthquake hazard and risk. It was also suggested that, in case that the review of the application give a negative decision on the publication, the special volume be published in an alternative form such as a collection of papers, or in another regional/local journal.

It was suggested during the discussion that the Commission should have a regular communication channel to exchange information and to provide a forum for free discussion. Based on the recent development of new technology, it is better that the Commission’s newsletter be in an electronic form, preferably in bulk E-mail form and having a web page.

It was pointed out that the study of earthquake hazard and risk and strong ground motion needs to have more experts, especially young experts, working on observation, field investigation, data interpretation, and theoretical modeling, even on engineering and seismo-sociology. The sharing of the know-how, data, experiences and lessons plays an important role in the development of this field. Participants of the meeting suggested that our Commission develop close cooperative relations with the Commission on Education and Outreach, the Asian Seismological Commission, and the European Seismological Commission, in developing training programs with special considerations on earthquake hazard and developing countries.

To develop the program for the coming IUGG 2003 Assembly in Sapporo is one of the important tasks of our Commission. It is expected that by developing such a program, the important scientific problems in this field may be identified and appropriately addressed. In developing the program, the cooperation with the Commission on Earthquake Sources: Modeling and Prediction (in the study of long term earthquake prediction), the Commission on Tectonophysics (in the study of paleo-seismological and tectonic input for seismic hazard analysis), the Commission on Observation and Interpretation (in the study of seismic wave propagation), and the ILP Program (in the study of both long-term earthquake hazard estimation and the effects of earthquakes on megacities), will be one of the important components. The Commission thanks Japanese colleagues for their valuable suggestions about the meetings on the synergetic effect of earthquake source and surface geology on strong ground motion and the standardization of strong motion observations, and would like to accommodate these ideas into the program. In organizing such activities, the leading Japanese experts proposing these ideas would be invited as convenors.

Participants of the meeting discussed, in many aspects, on the future of our Commission as well as the study of strong ground motion, earthquake hazard and risk.

It was pointed out that macro-seismic investigation to the meizo-seismal area plays an essential role in the study of strong ground motion, earthquake hazard and risk. As pointed out by the European Seismological Commission, the present status of macro-seismic investigation is, to much extent, in need of significant improvements. For meeting the needs of both engineering seismology and strong ground motion seismology, an international standard for macro-seismic investigation, even if in a preliminary form, is needed to be constructed and recommended. It was suggested that the Commission have cooperation with the European Seismological Commission on the preparatory research exploring the possibility of constructing such an international standard. Meanwhile, experiences of the Handbook for Seismological Observatories will be useful in this work. For doing this we need volunteers to form a Working Group (Those who are interested in this work please e-mail to

It is recognized that since recent years, there have be rapid developments in the study of strong ground motion and seismic hazard. Probabilistic and deterministic models have been developed in many aspects and shown to be prospective in the prediction of strong ground motion and earthquake hazard. To test these models is important in improving the present research and to solve some of the controversies. One of the ideas is to select a special region with both relatively complete tectonic/ seismological information as input and relatively good recordings of strong motion/destruction, and then to gather different methodologies together, using identical data set (the data before the earthquake) as input in doing the analysis, and comparing with identical data set (the data after the earthquake) as a test of the prediction. This approach shares many similarities with the comparison of algorithms in computational seismology using ‘standard events’, organized by the IASPEI in the 1980s. Candidates of the specially selected regions may include north Anatolia, west Yunnan, Taiwan, among others. For doing this work we need volunteers to form a Working Group (please e-mail to

It is noticed that modern seismology, having had a history as long as one century, has entered the era to harvest its fruits of long-term observation. Since the first seismic zonation map was published, there has been several decades passed, which permits us to perform the test against some of the ideas and technologies in many aspects. Comparative study of seismic zonation in different countries/regions at different time will be an interesting topic in the international cooperation in this field. While the GSHAP project and the newly proposed ILP project of global earthquake potential give more emphasis the universality and comprehensive analysis of earthquake hazard, our approach will give more emphasis on the diversity of different approaches. Because earthquake hazard and strong ground motion is a complicated topic of study, it is better for us to keep an open mind to different approaches, from probabilistic to deterministic, from quantitative to qualitative. While improving the present technologies and knowledge keeps to be an important job, to identify new scientific problems will play a more important role in the advancement of this field. We welcome comments and suggestions on this topic.

Links between our Commission to engineers is another hot topic during the discussion. Some participants proposed that, since our focus is basically on the seismological rather than engineering problems, earthquake risk should not be in the scope of our Commission. Accordingly they proposed that it is better to eliminate the word ‘Risk’ from the name of our Commission. Meanwhile, the opposite opinion suggested that it is better to keep this word and this scope, for the potential of the expansion of our Commission. A problem relating to this controversy comes from the history that for some times, people did not differentiate hazard and risk clearly in their wordings. This problem is to be reported to the Executive Committee and to be subjected to their discussion. In spite of this discrepancy, it was widely agreed that more efficient communications between seismological communities and engineering communities are necessary. More importantly, seismologists are responsible for playing a more active role in the sustainable development of economy and society. It needs to be encouraged that seismologists and our Commission develop cooperation in various forms with either local/regional or international engineering communities. We welcome comments and suggestions on this topic.

Although the Commission on Earthquake Hazard, Risk and Strong Ground Motion is a new commission with new scopes and new structures, we would like to express our sincere thanks to all the contributors in the past, either directly or indirectly related to the present Commission. The Commission on Earthquake Hazard, Risk and Strong Ground Motion would like to serve our colleagues all over the world by promoting the cooperation between them, and promoting the advancement of both fundamental research and application.

Wu Zhongliang