Understanding threats and reducing risks to human wellbeing
Thousands of lives and billions of dollars have been lost in recent natural disasters such as the 2010 Haiti and 2015 Nepal earthquakes and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Not to mention the hurricanes that struck Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. Geohazards have shaped and reshaped the planet for millennia. Now climate change is adding to the threats, even as urban centers are expanding and more people are living in vulnerable locations.
We study Earth processes—what causes them and how to predict where and when they will happen—but we also seek to reduce the risks to human wellbeing, especially in increasingly populated and vulnerable cities worldwide. Our expertise in both subsurface-originating hazards and the surface changes brought about by shifts in climate and land use provides a unique vantage point from which to analyze a new breed of potential hazards and risks.
Because foreshocks precede larger quakes, they have long presented the tantalizing prospect of warning of potentially damaging earthquakes. But to date, they have only been recognized in hindsight, and scientists for decades have sought to understand the physical processes that drive them. Computer modeling by Stanford geophysicists finds answers in the complex geometry of faults.