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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER)
Cycle 4 (2015 Deadline)

A better understanding future seismic and tsunami hazards due to the Mentawai seismic gap, West Sumatra, Indonesia, through dense geodetic networks and capacity building efforts

PI: Ashar Muda Lubis (, Bengkulu University
U.S. Partner: Louise Comfort, University of Pittsburgh
Project Dates: November 2015 - October 2018

Project Overview

4-309 GPS Map
Project GPS locations.

The Mentawai patch of the Sumatra subduction zone is locked and likely to produce a large earthquake in the near future (Chlieh et. al., 2008). The potential for this patch to rupture makes it very important to estimate future seismic and tsunami hazards that may ensue as a result. To get a better idea of future hazards, a better understanding of historical earthquakes on this patch is needed. To this end, the project team will use the earthquake cycle model to estimate the historical slip distributions though inversion of the paleogeodetic data. To better understand future tsunami hazards, we need to know how the patch will rupture in the future. The low-lying coastal Sumatran city of Padang has been the object of many research and outreach efforts, especially since the tsunami of 2004. However, there remain significant barriers to linking science to risk reduction: hazard information is sometimes contradictory or confusing for non-scientists and critical misunderstandings remain.

This three-year project aims to investigate and re-locate the source of earthquakes of the Mentawai seismic gap by densify the GPS network in West Sumatra. This will include training students from Bengkulu University in collecting and processing GPS data to model historical earthquakes in this region and simulate crustal deformation for earthquake cycles. They will also investigate tsunami height based on various models. To help prepare for potential future disasters, they will build partnerships among scientists, outreach workers, NGOs, and government officials in order to link science to risk-reduction practice. They will be leveraging the experience of their U.S. Government-supported partner, who has experience in methods of developing community resilience to disaster and policies for earthquake and tsunami hazards mitigation.

These researchers also plan to integrate earthquake education and curriculum development into their Global Positioning System (GPS) field surveys. Most of the GPS stations they will install will be in schoolyards. Undergraduate faculty-in-training from Bengkulu University will join the GPS field teams to develop, test, and refine lessons about earthquakes and ways to reduce risk. The project team will supervise undergraduate students in designing and implementing “go school” efforts and will also provide science and teaching examples for an NGO-led program to integrate disaster-risk reduction into the Padang city schools’ curriculum. This provides an excellent opportunity for educating local communities about earthquakes because the undergraduates will serve as effective role models for the younger school students, inspiring them to stay in school and encouraging them to study science. The project team will work with the Padang government to present and explain their results, including tsunami and hazard maps, as well as an assessment of potential impacts at the district and city levels. This will help local governments in at-risk communities to prepare for natural earthquake and tsunami hazards and will contribute to redefining the science of community resilience.

4-309 GPS Workshop 4-309 Project Team
Attendees of the GPS data acquisition workshop at Bengkulu University. The PI instructs members of the project team on data collection (photos courtesy of Dr. Lubis).

Summary of Recent Activities

Plans for Year 3 of this project call for installing a low-cost seismometer co-located at the GPS sites that have been put in place in and around West Sumatra, Indonesia. Therefore, in the last quarter of 2017, Dr. Lubis and his colleagues began assembling the necessary electronic devices into a low-cost seismometer. They used an Arduino Uno microcontroller board and an ADXL345 sensor to detect ground motion shaking due to earthquakes. To run and control the system, they have set up a mini computer, namely Raspberry Pi 3. The system they have created has demonstrated its capabilities for detecting a simulated earthquake. The next steps will be to try to calibrate this equipment with the team’s GPS equipment.

During the past quarter, the researchers have also re-surveyed the GPS monuments that they installed in Year 2 of the project. Even though they still lack sufficient data, they have tried to estimate crustal deformation resulting from Indo-Australian plate tectonic motion in the southern part of West Sumatra. They are very optimistic that they will have very clear data on deformation after they collect more data from their GPS survey campaigns.

The PI and some of his team members have been invited to participate in the SEA Studies Symposium 2018, “What is Southeast Asia? Exploring Uniqueness and Diversity,” which will be held March 22–24, 2018, at Universitas Indonesia. They will present their findings on earthquake and tsunami mitigation and natural hazard preparedness in Sumatra. Research-related plans for the first part of 2018 also include calibrating their low-cost seismometer, conducting another GPS survey, and processing the data obtained. In addition, they will run a tsunami model for the seismic gap Mentawai patch, Sumatra Subduction zone, and organize a workshop for students at Universitas Bengkulu to improve their skills in seismometer and GPS data acquisition, data processing, and data modeling. Following up on their earlier outreach activities on the project, Dr. Lubis and his team will also lead another disaster preparedness training session for teachers and students in Padang, West Sumatra. Dr. Lubis is also one of the young scientists in the Pacific region selected to take part in Pacific Partnership 2018, an annual activity organized by the U.S. Navy that brings together civilian and military personnel from 14 partner nations to exchange knowledge and best practices during seven port visits, improving disaster response preparedness in the Indo-Asia Pacific region. As part of this effort in 2018, Dr. Lubis and his colleagues will be organizing an international meeting for natural disaster preparedness to build community resilience in Sumatra.

4-309 NGO Evacuation4-309 Teachers Evacuation4-309 Students Evacuation 
Explaining evacuation procedures to local NGO and community representativesTeachers recognize their local school environment and develop evacuation maps Students instructed to assemble in school yard upon hearing evacuation sirens  

 Photos courtesy of Dr. Lubis

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