BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the coast of
northern Japan and the tsunami it triggered demonstrate the need
for an integrated approach to preparing for, mitigating and
responding to extreme events, say researchers at the University at
Buffalo, MCEER and the UB Center for GeoHazards Studies, who spoke
to media in a briefing Friday on UB's North Campus.
Video commentary from UB faculty experts is available here:
MCEER is the Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering
Research headquartered at UB.
"It's striking just how complicated these disasters can be,"
says Gregory Valentine, PhD, UB geology professor and director of
the Center for GeoHazards. Coincidentally, Valentine had planned to
fly to Japan on Friday to attend "The First Workshop of
Asia-Pacific Region Global Earthquake and Volcanic Eruption Risk
"We tend to view the disasters from within our own research
disciplines, but in fact, numerous disciplines are needed to better
prepare for, mitigate and respond to such extreme events," says
Valentine. "You can't study individual hazards in isolation."
Gilberto Mosqueda, PhD, UB associate professor of civil,
structural and environmental engineering and MCEER researcher,
agreed, noting that numerous fires were triggered as the result of
the earthquake. Such fires can be caused by the rupturing of
utility lines underground and in buildings. He said that while
structures have been designed to resist earthquake forces and to
resist fires, once shaking occurs -- even if the building remains
standing -- their ability to resist fires may be reduced.
"This is a cascading event," says Mosqueda. "This earthquake
will push us to pay more attention to what happens during these
cascading events. We are focusing on this at UB, to study how
systems behave under multiple hazards, so that we can minimize loss
of life and property damage in these extreme events."
Such events also have severe environmental repercussions beyond
the way they affect the built environment, according to Chris
Renschler, PhD, associate professor of geography at UB and director
of the Landscape-based Environmental System Analysis and Modeling
"This cascading event has caused dramatic changes inland and
especially in the coastal landscape and its ecosystems, in addition
to its impact on infrastructure," he says, noting that landslides
and various sources of pollution potentially could be severe
short-and long-term hazards for humans and wildlife.
UB faculty often travel to countries and regions devastated by
earthquakes, as part of international efforts to improve seismic
design of buildings and infrastructure. Disaster mitigation,
response to extreme events and multi-hazard engineering are
research strengths of the university identified in the UB 2020
Founded in 1986, MCEER, headquartered at the University at
Buffalo, is a national center of excellence in advanced technology
applications dedicated to reducing losses from earthquakes and
other hazards, and to improving disaster resilience. One of three
such centers in the nation established by the National Science
Foundation, MCEER has been funded principally over the past two
decades with more than $67 million from NSF, more than $47 million
from the State of New York and more than $34 million from the
Federal Highway Administration. Additional support comes from the
Federal Emergency Management Agency, other state governments,
academic institutions, foreign governments and private
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.