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SPIN ESR 2.3: Next-Generation Physics-based earthquake forecasts

Host institution: British Geological Survey (BGS) drawing


academic Supervisor: Ian Main & Andrew Curtis (University of Edinburgh, UK)
BGS supervisor: Margarita Segou (BGS, UK)
co-supervisor: Brian Baptie (BGS, UK)

Application deadline: application closed Earliest possible starting date: October 1st, 2021

General information

This PhD position is one of the 15 Early Stage Researcher (ESR) positions within the SPIN project. SPIN is an Innovative Training Network (ITN) funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action (MSCA).

SPIN will focus on training 15 PhD candidates in emerging measurement technologies in seismology. We will research the design of monitoring systems for precursory changes in material properties, all while optimizing observation strategies. The unique interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral network will enable PhDs to gain international expertise at excellent research institutions, with a meaningful exposure of each PhD to other disciplines and sectors, thus going far beyond the education at a single PhD programme.

Project description

Earthquakes show clustering in space and time, as illustrated by the aftershocks triggered by large events. Empirical descriptions of clustering explain many features observed in seismicity catalogues, and they can be used to construct forecasts that indicate how earthquake probabilities change over the short term. However, these statistical approaches do not offer significant improvement for the physical triggering mechanisms that govern earthquake occurrence. The complexity and heterogeneity imaged in the structure and stress field of the Earth makes any direct interpretation of laboratory experimental results challenging. Now, the theory of static stress transfer combined with the laboratory derived rate-and-state law that describes the seismicity response to a stress perturbation is able to describe the stress-mediated fault interactions within a testable framework.
Recent work shows that physics-based models match or even exceed the performance of empirical approaches when applied to aftershock sequences. The most important elements of improved performance in these approaches come from the consideration of heterogenous faulting networks and stress states. The challenge behind the development of empirical and physics-based forecasts lies largely in their interpretation since short-term earthquake probabilities for future large magnitude events remain low in an absolute sense (< 1% per day).

Here, we seek to push the limits of physics-based approaches in earthquake forecasting by including improved time-dependent representation of stress (transient deformation, pore pressure effects etc) to achieve an evolving physics-based model that will inform us about large-scale processes that occur in real Earth. In this project you will develop earthquake forecast models in large scale based on physics-based simulations aiming to improve our process-based understanding of earthquake triggering. Those large-scale processes may inform us about future experiments in the lab motivating further rock physics research. The framework will generate, evaluate, optimize and discriminate earthquake forecasts based on robust statistical modelling and validation.