Research platform 3: global geological risk


Montserrat. Soufriere Hills volcano. Small pyroclastic flow.

Natural geological hazards, such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and landslides, and their associated risk and impacts are of key concern to long-term economic growth. Understanding these dynamic processes, and using this information to improve disaster risk reduction, can increase the security and sustainability of development. We aim to characterise complex, multi-hazard processes in Latin America and the Caribbean, eastern Africa, and Asia. Our key research themes are:

  • strengthening multi-hazard resilience through integrating citizen science, innovative technologies, and understanding of environmental processes, hazards and impacts
  • enhancing resilience of institutional networks, systems, and communities in eastern Africa
  • developing sustainable and resilient Asian urban areas
  • resilience across the disaster cycle


Colm Jordan (RP3 lead and team leader for Earth and planetary observation and monitoring)

Colm Jordan

Colm is a geomorphologist with expertise in hazard monitoring and characterisation. He has extensive international experience gained through projects in the Caribbean, South America, Africa and Asia. His work includes risk management information services in the Caribbean and managing national landslide hazard assessments for nine sub-Saharan African countries. He provides advice to the UK Government; he is a trained project manager for the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters, and has responded to events in Ecuador, Japan, Sierra Leone and Nepal.

Susan Loughlin (RP3 co–investigator and team leader for volcanology)

Susan Loughlin

Susan is a volcanologist with extensive experience of survey and monitoring, and a previous director of the Monserrat Volcano Observatory. As a technical expert, she provides advice to the UK Government, Met Office and Civil Aviation Authority on the risks and impacts of volcanic eruptions.

Susanne Sargeant (RP3 co–investigator and seismic hazard analyst)

Susanne Sargeant

Susanne is a seismologist specialising in seismic hazard assessment. She has a keen interest in humanitarian and development work and has worked on research and capacity building projects in many developing countries including Nepal, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Susanne has held two knowledge exchange fellowships, which have focussed on increasing the use of earthquake science in humanitarian and development NGOs and in the resilience building process more generally. She is also an experienced facilitator and works with groups for various purposes such as to identify lessons learned from challenge–led research projects.

RP3 current activities

Earth observation and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

EOWORLD2 project

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development highlighted the importance of Earth observation (EO), including satellite observations, to inform the SDG targets and indicators: "... We will exploit the contribution to be made by a wide range of data, including Earth observation and geo-spatial information, while ensuring national ownership in supporting and tracking progress." (UNGA resolution A/RES/70/1. Paragraph 76).

Our work with partners across the globe has demonstrated the impact of EO data to address targets associated with SDG 13, e.g. "to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters". For example, landslide inventory maps are crucial for disaster risk reduction and emergency relief because they record the state of the landscape, help identify the impacts, and provide evidence of where future landslides may occur.

Our work with partners in St Lucia, Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines, funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the World Bank, demonstrates the contribution of EO data to support landslide hazard assessment.

We are combining landslide inventories made using very high resolution optical satellite imagery (e.g. Pleiades and RapidEye) and fieldwork, alongside EO-derived land use/land cover mapping to classify active and inactive landslide regions. Our multi-temporal approach allows us to gain insights into landscape recovery and resilience to triggers (such as hurricanes); such information is vital to establish coherent hazard and risk assessments.

Our work is helping to create risk information for planning and development strategies in critical sectors, and to support capacity development to use this risk information within government departments, among land owners and the general public.

Improving multi-hazard resilience through citizen science

Components of increasing resilience to natural hazards where citizen science could help
Example of specific questions on multi-hazards

Community participation in monitoring natural hazards can help to increase resilience, through raising awareness, understanding, and improving preparedness of communities. The myVolcano app was developed in response to the 2010 and 2011 Icelandic eruptions. The app was designed to collect observations at any location worldwide.

The BGS is collaborating with partners including the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre and the National Emergency Management Organisation of St Vincent to develop this app in a dynamic, multi-hazard environment. This app will capture a wider variety of hazard observations for use by the public, operational scientists, and civil protection. A workshop and school activities, held in March 2017, collected feedback on the app. A multi-hazard scenario was used to encourage discussion on its usability. The new multi-hazards app will:

  • capture and disseminate data and information about multi-hazards and impacts (e.g. road closures, shelter locations)
  • enable local management of observations in real time

Collaborating to improve disaster response

Scarp of Regent landslide in Sierra Leone

The BGS continues to have a leading role responding to requests for humanitarian assistance in the aftermath of natural disasters (e.g. Nepal, Sierra Leone). The BGS works closely with organisations such as the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the Food and Agricultural Organization, NASA and MapAction to provide support and geohazard advice during emergency situations, including response to landslides, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and earthquakes.

Following the M7.8 Gorkha earthquake (2015), the M7.8 earthquake in Ecuador (April 2016) and the rainfall-triggered landslides in Freetown, Sierra Leone (2017), the BGS played a leading role building inventories of landslides and advising on the associated hazards.

We are now working with our partners in a range of countries to develop pro-active (pre-positioning) systems to help inform NGOs, governments, and mandated authorities when a catastrophic geohazard occurs.

Maps and information generated in response to these national emergencies are disseminated through a wide range of media including the UN International Charter on Space and Major Disasters, UK Government departments, and MapAction. Maps are also published on ReliefWeb, ensuring that our work is aiding relief efforts across the globe.

Read more about our work collaborative work in:

Partnering to help understand the use of innovative technologies

Geological CO2 storage potential of India. Copyright © IEA Environmental Projects Ltd. (Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme) 2008

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a process by which carbon dioxide (CO2) is taken from flue gases and injected into deep geological formations. Through a series of workshops, we have been exploring the feasibility of CCS technologies with partners in India.

India is currently reliant on power and transport derived from fossil fuels and on energy-intensive industries as part of their development and growth plans. As a signatory to the Paris Agreement, India are committed to reducing their atmospheric CO2 emissions, and to achieve their target they recognise the potential of deploying CCS.

Our workshops were designed to initiate discussions with stakeholders (including power generators and research groups) in order to:

  • document their requirements (technology, economic, policy)
  • share information on the potential contribution of CCS to addressing global issues
  • understand the barriers, opportunities and benefits of future decarbonisation
  • determine the contribution of CCS to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 7, 9, and 13)

Future collaboration will focus on India's fossil-fuel based power generation and heavy industry through CCS implementation and related low-carbon technologies such as CO2 utilisation and biomass co-firing.

A collaborative approach to disaster risk management

Workshop hosted by NEMO

We are bringing together people working across academic research disciplines, from government to geoscience agencies and NGOs, to share, discuss and learn from major multi-disciplinary programmes aimed at understanding geohazards, managing risk, and increasing resilience. We are focused on addressing the roles that geoscience and geoscientists can play in the building of resilient communities and informing policymaking.

We have engaged with partners through a number of previous workshops, including:

  • St Vincent (28 February to 1 March 2017): multi-hazard smartphone app workshop. The National Emergency Management Organisation of St Vincent (NEMO) and the Seismic Research Centre (SRC) of the University of West Indies hosted BGS staff at the workshop and helped to facilitate accompanying events at four schools. The smartphone app is designed to collect information about various natural hazards and scenarios; this infomrmation was used to help understand how the system could be used at different stages in a natural disaster. An open discussion forum was also used to help co-design new functionality for the islanders. The workshop at the NEMO offices also included an interview with a local expert to help understand the value of citizen science.
  • India (February 2017): details of this workshop can be found in the "Partnering to help understand the use of innovative technologies" section above
  • London (7–8 September 2017): building resilience to geohazards in the face of uncertainty

We have a number of future events planned in St Vincent (October and November 2017) and Ethiopia (November 2017). In St Vincent we will work with an existing Global Challenge Research Fund project, Citizen science and disaster risk reduction, led by Prof Jenni Barclay of the University of East Anglia to help understand the role of citizen science and potentially incorporate community sensors into the smartphone multi-hazard app. The BGS is also collaborating with the Institute of Geophysics, Space Science and Astronomy at the University of Addis Ababa to organise a workshop on science and disaster risk management. There will be discussions on the role of science in disaster risk management and some related training activities.


Contact for more information or to get involved.

Event response information