OpenQuake | 19 Nov 2012

Programming together in Pavia..

Joint Code Sprint on GIS/Disaster Risk Tools

Last week GEM Secretariat hosted a ‘sprint’; a week long of joint work, programming, discussing and improving GIS-tools and mechanisms to facilitate disaster risk assessment and increase resilience. An intense week that lead to new that make the InaSAFE tool (initially developed for Indonesia) applicable worldwide, new insights that help the OpenQuake tools move along, reinforced (new) collaborations and led to knowledge sharing on many fronts.

The sprint was organized by GFDRR - one of GEM’s Associate Participants. As GEM, GFDRR strongly believes in investing in open-source technologies that can be shared, extended, built upon and most importantly used by organisations around the globe for risk assessment and management fitting their needs. Several years ago GFDRR started co-developing Geonode, which is now a mature technology adopted and used by a growing number of disaster risk agencies around the globe. Ariel Nunez, from GFDRR labs explains: 'InaSAFE became the next big project'. 

InaSAFE was launched by Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) at the 5th Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) only several weeks ago. It is a hands-on tool that allows Indonesian agencies to combine scientific hazard and community knowledge on disaster risk. 

The sprint

From 12-16 November GEM hosted the ‘code sprint' with the goal improve the technology behind that software for everyone's use and see how new partnerships can be created to continue to grow the community of developers around the tool and its underlying software 'QGIS'. The sprint, organised by GFDRR Labs, brought together a wide range of technical experts from Geoscience Australia (GA), the World Food Programme (WFP), the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC), and Information Technology for Humanitarian Assistance, Cooperation and Action (ITHACA), working and coding together around 3 tasks. 

  • Task 1. Using InaSafe for a flood and drought rapid impact assessment in support of PDNA activities.
  • Task 2. Using InaSafe with scenarios from the Global Earthquake Model (GEM) for earthquake preparedness.
  • Task 3. Exploring new ways of visualizing and communicating risk information using data from the Global Assessment Report (GAR)

GEM was involved in the earthquake and visualisation groups, whilst a third group worked on flood modelling looking at Nigeria's floods in real time.

The earthquake team.. 

The team - consisting of Helen Crowley, Nick Horspool (remote), Damiano Monelli (remote), Ole Nielsen (remote), Michele Simionato and Giuseppe Vallarelli - managed to implement the PAGER fatality impact model in QGIS, which now makes the tool applicable for rapid earthquake impact assessment not only for Indonesia, but for any country in the world

InaSAFE; global impact - step1

InaSAFE; global impact - step2

InaSAFE; global impact - step 3

You see here the various steps in order to assess the estimated number of people that could die (fatalities) in the city of Istanbul, as well as the number of estimated people that will be displaced. 

  • The earthquake scenario is based on a 7.5 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Istanbul and the hazard model was generated by earthquake hazard experts with the OpenQuake Engine (through a command line).
  • The number of fatalities is based on the PAGER model; which is used for rapid assessment of loss after an earthquake worldwide.  
  • The number of displaced persons is based on the InaSAFE (Indonesian) model and might not best for worldwide application. 
  • The map only visualises the estimated number of displaced people, visualising estimated deaths in a map is not desirable, because there is still too much uncertainty around it.  

But it doesn't stop there. The team also planned the development of a QGIS plugin that allows a user to develop hazard layers for user-selected scenarios using the OpenQuake Engine, as a basis for impact assessment with InaSAFE. This will allow non-expert users to use the state-of-the-art science on seismic hazard from the OpenQuake Engine for developing risk scenarios! 


Ben Wyss and Vivien Deparday used MapBoxand it’s open source project TileMill to produce a flood map for Nigeria using data provided by the flood group. Check the result here:

Check out some of Ben Wyss' tweets to get an idea of what he worked on.. @BenjaminWyss 

Ben's insights and reflections: 

  • TileMill: "The result is a cheap, fast lookup that renders to a browsed easily. This allows for scalable interaction with very large data via a web browser. This could break down some barriers we are currently facing with the OpenQuake Platform as we try to visualize very large date sets."
  • MapBox: "Mapbox has some really nice features that fall on the design side of the house. With Mapbox one can style openstreetmaps and create a custom base layer. We did this for the Nigeria demo."
  • JavaScript: "Thus far developing client application within the GeoNode context we have been limited to ExtJS. It  has a lot of good features, but one drawback to using is the ever present 'Windows 95' look and feel and development issues. The GeoNode development community is aware of this, and is now building into GeoNode alternative JS libraries that can be used seamlessly within GeoNode. This will provide us with an arsenal of new dynamic, robust and flexible tools to develop applications for the OpenQuake Platform hence another barrier removed. Some of the JS libraries that are now accessible are LeafletJs + Jquary a light wight modern open-source JavaScript library for mobile-friendly interactive maps."

Meaning for GEM

The sprint was very successful from various points of view; our 'main take aways' are: 

  • We are keen to continue working with QGIS and to develop plug-ins using the OpenQuake Python code. 
  • We have learnt about the benefits of a one-week code Sprint focussed on a specific set of tasks, and we are keen to organise future Sprints related to the OpenQuake software. 
  • We can envisage using the visualisation tools used in this Sprint (MapBox and TileMill) for presenting earthquake-related information on the OpenQuake web platform.

Thanks GFDRR Labs for organising this sprint; we look forward to more interactions and collaboration with all the communities working on GIS and disaster risk related tools. And for all readers: stay tuned, we will keep you updated on new developments on the OpenQuake platform and tools!

gfdrr labs, gis, itaca, jrc, open quake, open source, sprint, wfp


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