One of the cornerstones of disaster reduction is early warning and predicting, as far as possible, the places affected, the timing and scale of an adverse phenomenon. At the same time, disasters are possibilities for learning. Hence, research and development activities focus on two scientific questions at the German Reserach Centre for Geosciences (GFZ):
- How can we use technology to improve early warning and to provide rapid information immediately before, during and after disasters?
- What are the limits of predictability and how can models be rigorously tested?
The GFZ has a proven record of technology and method developments in the fields of rapid disaster information and early warning. Scientists build on these experiences by developing new methods for earthquake and volcanic early warning, including rapid event monitoring and real-time seismology. They integrate space- and ground-based earth observation systems and simulation tools in (near) real-time. Although technological advances rapidly improve the capabilities for forecasting and early warning, there are distinct limits of predictability. Past events may be an unreliable guide to future risks, or interacting, non-linear processes may lead to developments not taken into account in models and predictions. Frequently applied physical models in hazard assessment, e.g. characteristic or maximal events, may be unjustified if tested against large databases. Rigorous and prospective testing of scientific hypotheses and models, using community-accepted testing procedures and protocols, will be employed to quantify the limits of predictability in earthquake and ground motion forecast and for hazard and risk assessment procedures.