Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Visiting the Istituto Nazionale dei Geofisica e Vulcanologia

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the colleagues at the Istituto Nazionale dei Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV) in Rome, Italy. I was really curious about the institute. Before, I mostly was cooperating with the staff there in geoinformatics projects for sea floor observatories, but knew little about their role for the Italian earthquake warning system.

Two of my hosts, Stefano Vinci and Fawzi Doumaz proudly showed me the brand new INGV earthquake warning operation center (n.b: this is how I call it I cannot remember the real name..) and I really was very impressed: Huge flat screens everywhere showing real time seismic data from many stations. A large map of Italy gives an overview on the current seismic activity (which apparently just reloaded when I made the picture). Several operators, geoscientists of course, work there and double check the incoming seismic signals. In the background you can see the computing center where the raw data arrives and is processed. Dozens of noisy high end servers work there. Somehow, a futuristic atmosphere..

The hole system is designed around a very nice piece of software called Sismap (coded by Stefano and Fawzi) which is based on a ESRI GIS system. One of the good things about this tool is that it is integrating seismic as well as administrative data. Therefore, after a confirmed earthquake, the local authorities can immediately be informed and the system automatically generates reports for e.g. fire fighters and police. This has drastically reduced warning times and will certainly save many lives.

Some of the data is also available for the public e.g.: http://openmap.rm.ingv.it/gmaps/rec-big/Index.htm

Well and as you can see, if all breaks.. a paper copy always makes sense.

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