Open-Source Model Launches to Push Quake Risk Outside of the “Black Box”

Open-Source Model Launches to Push Quake Risk Outside of the “Black Box”

The public/private initiative to build an open-source earthquake model officially launched its platform Wednesday with the goal of offering model access to communities traditionally priced out of the market.

“Outside of the insurance industry, there are very few tools that can handle the complex interactions that lead to damage and loss,” said Ross Stein, chair of the Global Earthquake Model (GEM) science board during the event in Pavia, Italy that was streamed live. “We want to put the tools in the hands of local communities to understand the risk. Everything that you hear stems from the fact that we cannot predict earthquakes. And because we can’t predict earthquakes over decades or minutes, you need to think think in terms of the likelihood of occurrence.”

GEM’s OpenQuake platform has been development since 2006, when the OECD helped create the program in order to develop open source risk assessment tools.

The first general release includes three main components, according to Paul Henshaw, director of Technology and Development at GEM.

  • OpenQuake Platform: A web based-platform that provides access to data models and tools.
  • OpenQuake Engine: The model’s calculation engine for seismic hazard and physical risk Assorted tools that assist in the use of model and collecting data.
  • Other updates to the OpenQuake model continue to be built, including improvement to the software’s logic tree support, new ways of exporting data and software upgrades to encourage interactivity.

“The goal of the model is open source,” Henshaw said. “And open source isn’t just about the the licence, its also about [seeing] how we work. It’s possible for other people to review and address problems.”

The development of the model had already lead to new technologies, Henshaw added, including GEM’s Inventory Data Capture Tool, which helps collect inventory and damage data and has already gained interest outside of the earthquake models framework.

“We are delighted by that,” Henshaw said.

Beyond the open source scientific contributions, the development of the GEM model also included private market players such as Munich Re and catastrophe modelling firm AIR Worldwide.

“In developing countries there often is little or no insurance and the financial burden is borne largely by the government,” said Dr. Jayanta Guin, executive vice president of research and modeling at AIR Worldwide in an email statement. “AIR’s scientific and financial contributions to GEM are consistent with AIR’s support for the private-public partnerships that are needed to help developing countries better plan, react and recover from natural catastrophes.”

GEM’s Ross said that he does not see the open source model as a competitor to proprietary platforms, but as way to engage developing government to understand their quake risk without the worry of expending limited capital.

“The results in these proper model is very good, but these models are built by consultant in  country and and available to a paying customer,” he said. “If you provide this free, and engage people there is scientific ownership and civic ownership.”

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