Cost-benefit analyses to assess the potential of Operational Earthquake Forecasting prior to a mainshock in Europe

John Douglas, Alireza Azarbakht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)


In the past couple of decades, Operational Earthquake Forecasting (OEF) has been proposed as a way of mitigating earthquake risk. In particular, it has the potential to reduce human losses (injuries and deaths) by triggering actions such as reinforcing earthquake drills and preventing access to vulnerable structures during a period of increased seismic hazard. Despite the dramatic increases in seismic hazard in the immediate period before a mainshock (of up to 1000 times has been observed), the probability of a potentially damaging earthquake occurring in the coming days or weeks remains small (generally less than 5%). Therefore, it is necessary to balance the definite cost of taking an action against the uncertain chance that it will mitigate earthquake losses. In this article, parametric cost–benefit analyses using a recent seismic hazard model for Europe and a wide range of inputs are conducted to assess when potential actions for short-term OEF are cost–beneficial prior to a severe mainshock. Ninety-six maps for various combinations of input parameters are presented. These maps show that low-cost actions (costing less than 1% of the mitigated losses) are cost–beneficial within the context of OEF for areas of moderate to high seismicity in the Mediterranean region. The actions triggered by OEF in northern areas of the continent are, however, unlikely to be cost–beneficial unless very large increases in seismicity are observed or very low-cost actions are possible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-311
Number of pages19
JournalNatural Hazards
Issue number1
Early online date16 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2021


  • time-dependent seismic hazard
  • feasibility study
  • risk-mitigation actions
  • nomogram
  • decision making
  • parametric analysis


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