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Division of Biogeoscience
Division of Geology and Geochemistry
Division of Urban Geograpahy and Regional Studies
Study Office

P.O. Box 64
(Gustaf Hällströmin katu 2a)
FI-00014 University of Helsinki

Department Office
Institute of Seismology

P.O. Box 68
(Gustaf Hällströmin katu 2b)
FI-00014 University of Helsinki

phone +358 294 1911 (university exchange)
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Investigating natural hazards today is a prerequisite for mitigating their effects tomorrow

Photo: Henri Riihimäki

Natural hazards associated with the ground and bedrock are important topics, because the consequences may be on the increase worldwide due to a more complicated and extensive built-up environment. The increasing vulnerability means that even minor natural phenomena may cause economic loss today. Risk assessment in a broad sense can be understood to include the study of earlier harmful occurrences and estimation of the respective loss in modern terms. This applies especially to rare natural events.

Seismic hazard assessment aims at obtaining ideas about the spatial and temporal occurrence of earthquakes and return periods of seismic events of different sizes. The primary earthquake threat is the rapid onset of strong ground motions and their effects on buildings. The output of hazard assessment is typically given as the probability of exceedance of a given ground motion value in a given place and time interval. Assessments of seismic hazard are necessary also in low-seismicity areas for the safety of sensitive structures such as nuclear power plants.

Besides seismic hazard assessments for near-by areas and overseas, research conducted at the Department includes participation in a project aimed at setting up an alarm, warning and information exchange system that rescue personnel can use in the event of an emergency. The concept was applied to a disastrous earthquake hitting a tourist resort on the island of Crete, Greece.

Human activity may increase the frequency and magnitude of some natural events such as forest fires. Global warming may lead to a higher economic loss and ecological damage resulting from forest and bush fires, which is a serious threat. Estimating the location and size of fires is therefore necessary. This has been investigated using remote sensing and spatiotemporal methods.

The Department participates in a national warning system for natural disasters in co-operation with the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

Ongoing at the Department