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Precursors of the Caucasus Earthquakes


Triggers and Precursors of the Caucasus Large Earthquakes

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-MRA/Modelling and Risk Assessment/Environment
  • OBS-GEO/Geology/Other Basic Sciences
  • OBS-NAT/Natural Resources and Earth Sciences/Other Basic Sciences
  • SAT-AST/Astronomy/Space, Aircraft and Surface Transportation
  • SAT-EXP/Extraterrestrial Exploration/Space, Aircraft and Surface Transportation

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Tbilisi State University, Georgia, Tbilisi

Supporting institutes

  • Institute of Physics of the Earth, Russia, Moscow\nEvgeni Kharadze Georgian National Astrophysical Observatory, Georgia, Tbilisi\nNational Survey for Seismic Protection of RA, Armenia, Yerevan


  • Tohoku University, Japan, Sendai\nSan Jose State University / College of Science, USA, CA, San Jose\nUniversita Degli Studi di Bari, Italy, Bari\nNASA / Goddard Space Flight Center, USA, MD, Greenbelt\nInstitut de Physique du Globe, France, Strasbourg

Project summary

In the history of humanity earthquakes have always been and are still today considered as one of Nature's greatest calamities. Earthquakes wreck physical damage and have led in the past to the loss of millions of lives. Prominent researchers in the Earth sciences and beyond consider it a first-order task to find ways to forecast the likely location of impending major earthquakes, their approximate time, and the magnitude of the seismic energy to be released.

Interesting ideas have been formulated in recent years about the possibility of achieving a controlled gradual release of the accumulated seismic energy, for instance by pumping water into the ground, by underground nuclear explosions, by powerful electric pulses etc. If it were possible to implement any such technique and to initiate earthquakes outside their natural cycle, losses in human lives could be greatly reduced, since the timing of artificially induced earthquakes would be known in advance.

Given the current stage of development of seismology and of the physics of the Earth at large, implementation of any of the ideas mentioned above is possible only after we have acquired a deeper understanding of earthquake precursors and of triggering mechanisms, which depend upon the build-up of tectonic stress in seismically active regions. An important and significant factor in solving this problem is the nonlinear character of the processes involved and their possible interference, which, under some as yet unidentified conditions, can either increase or decrease the probability of occurrence.

Due to the large number of factors that participate in or control the triggering of earthquakes, special care is required to arrive at a solution of the problem: first we must establish a set of independent geophysical data, and then use them to assess the actual seismic situations encountered in a given tectonically active region. Since the Caucasus is one of the seismically most active regions of the Earth, the questions to be addressed in this Proposal acquire great scientific and societal significance.

The main objectives of the project are identify triggering factors and evaluate the precursors reported for the Caucasus seismoactive region, and derive criteria according to which the probability of the occurrence of large earthquakes can be estimated.

According to these objectives the main tasks of the Project are:

1) Develop a database.

2) Create evaluation criteria for earthquake prediction based on different mathematical theories.
3) Identify the various types of precursors to large earthquakes.
4) Identify endogenous triggering factors.
5) Identify exogenous triggering factors.

The participating Institutes provide rich research experience in the aforementioned fields. In fact, the main scientific and engineering potentials of Armenia, Russia and Georgia in the Earth Sciences are vested in these institutions.

Implementation of this Project will create a shared regional database with built-in verification and quality control to include data from seismology, geology, geophysics, meteorology, astronomy, international satellite missions, and other sources. The new database will also contain entries on critical facilities, which, if damaged in an earthquake, could have significant impact in the region. During the implementation phase of the Project existing scientific data will be compiled and re-evaluated for inclusion in the database. Based upon the compiled new information, the range of usable or potentially usable seismic precursors and triggering factors will be identified. The data thus compiled will be analyzed using the theory of fuzzy data. This will help propose benchmarks for use in the decision-making process regarding the thread of an identifiable impending earthquake.

Scientific and practical results obtained under this Project will be made available, in a usable format, as recommendations to appropriate state and private institutions, organizations and companies interested or responsible for managing and mitigating natural hazards.

The project will provide weapon scientists and engineers opportunities to redirect their knowledge and skills to peaceful activities. Additionally, it will support the research and technology development in the fields of seismic hazard, types and learning types and characters of precursors and triggering factors of large earthquakes of the Caucasus and estimating the probability of large earthquake occurrence.

Foreign collaborators have been actively involved with the development of this project and will continue to collaborate with participants of the project in the following areas:

– Serve on the technical advisory committees for each area of the project providing input and guidance for the project implementation as well as participation in regular meetings.

– Data exchange during the Project implementation.
– Provide peer review of project results.
– Participate in semi-annual project review meetings.
– Comments regarding technical reports being presented in the ISTC.
– Conduct joint symposia and seminars.
– Collaboration in a scientific exchange in various investigations areas.
– Provide opportunities for hosting project participants at western universities and laboratories.
– Disseminate as widely as possible validated results from the project and identify other sources of support.

It should be noted that colleagues from Azerbaijan participated in the development of this project. It is the intention of the project participants and collaborators to include the colleagues from this country as possible through funding sources beyond the ISTC. Additionally discussions have been held with INTAS to ensure that this project is well coordinated with other related projects, as well as pursue funding of related efforts through a coordinated approach with these other potential funding organizations.


The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) is an intergovernmental organization connecting scientists from Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia with their peers and research organizations in the EU, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway and the United States.


ISTC facilitates international science projects and assists the global scientific and business community to source and engage with CIS and Georgian institutes that develop or possess an excellence of scientific know-how.

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