UC professor uses supercomputer to simulate earthquake shaking

Posted 25 Feb 2016 by CanterburyUniversity Popular

Wondering what it looked like when the earth moved during the Valentine’s Day quake? University of Canterbury Professor in Earthquake Engineering Brendon Bradley has, using UC’s Blue Gene supercomputer, simulated the ground shaking from the 14 February earthquake.

Professor Bradley uses a model that has been extensively validated in the previous Canterbury earthquakes to create the simulation.

“We can use this model to predict the shaking in Christchurch depending on where the earthquake occurred. In the latter part of the simulation you can see that there’s different shaking depending on where you were.

“Like dropping a stone in a pond, the ripples initially radiate outward in different directions. However, after a short while the complex geology of the region changes the way the waves propagate,” Dr Bradley says.

From a physical perspective, the simulation shows shaking which is focused in the northwesterly direction towards Parklands, Kaiapoi and New Brighton with reduced levels of shaking in other directions, such as in the South and West towards Lyttelton and also towards Rolleston.

“The other critical aspect is that these simulations are very intensive, they would take 100 days to run on a laptop computer. We make use of the University’s supercomputer to run the calculations in 4 hours. By having a semi-automated procedure for extracting earthquake information from GeoNet we are able to collect all the necessary data, run the calculation, and process the outputs within a day. This near real-time information on ground shaking is extremely useful to understand the expect levels of damage in the region and inform decision making,” Dr Bradley says.

UC’s supercomputing facility Bluefern was established by scientists and engineers to make it easier for researchers to use world-class supercomputers, and features the first IBM Blue Gene to be installed in the Southern Hemisphere

You can see Professor Brendon Bradley’s earthquake simulation here:



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