How to build a society resilient to natural catastrophes: ChEESE team defines HPC service prototypes
20 September 2019
Tsunami image

Image: Simulated maximum surface elevation due to an earthquake generated tsunami offshore Japan. The white points indicate tsunami DART stations that monitor the tsunami propagation. In ChEESE, we will simulate such events faster than the tsunami propagates over the ocean, meaning that the simulations are carried out faster than the speed the tsunami propagate.


Imagine these scenarios in which natural disasters could potentially threaten hundreds or even thousands of lives. What research is currently being done and what role does ChEESE play in this?

  • A tsunami wave generated by a strong earthquake, landslide or volcanic eruption could propagate across the Mediterranean Sea in only few hours. Can we provide faster than real time inundation maps at high resolution, and a quick alert also for the populations at risk?
  • What would happen if a large earthquake occurred in Europe? Can scientists provide ground motion and shaking maps fast enough and at sufficiently high resolution to help emergency management and rescue operations?
  • When the next explosive eruption in Iceland occurs, will scientists be able to provide reliable, real-time ash distribution in the atmosphere to aviation authorities, to avoid massive closure of the airspace while guaranteeing the safety of air routes?

In cases of a natural catastrophes, efficient computational algorithms and the most powerful computer in Europe might be required to help manage these emergencies, in the shortest possible time.

This is Urgent Computing. ChEESE aims to demonstrate in Pilot Demonstrators (PD) on Urgent Seismic Simulations (PD1), Faster Than Real-Time Tsunami Simulations (PD2) and High-Resolution Volcanic Ash Dispersal Forecast (PD3) that technology is ready to design Exascale Urgent Computing workflows for supporting contingency plans for seismic, volcanic and tsunami events.

In addition, natural catastrophes often occur with very little anticipation and precursors difficult to detect. The earlier the warning, the more effective the mitigation of the impact of the dangerous phenomena.

This is Early Warning. ChEESE will make use of the most efficient High Performance Computing architectures, software and workflows to demonstrate prototype Early Warning systems for tsunamis .

  • How big will  the next volcanic eruption be at Jan Mayen, in Norway? How will that potentially impact the population and the air traffic in Europe, considering the statistical variability of wind intensity and directions?
  • Can scientific research, together with advanced computing technology, help reduce  volcanic risk for the population and for productive activities in Southern Italy and optimize the land use, in consideration of the potential impact of future volcanic eruptions at Campi Flegrei and Vesuvio?
  • What is the probability of ground acceleration exceeding a given threshold at a nuclear plant site, or for a critical infrastructure in Europe? What is the probability that a large earthquake in the Mediterranean produces a tsunami wave higher than one metre in the Marseille harbour?

Building a prepared society resilient to natural catastrophes requires the capability of managing the complexity of the natural phenomena and the large uncertainty associated with their development, in a probabilistic framework. This requires performing large ensembles of accurate scenario simulations to reproduce the complex physics of the natural systems and the wide variability of initial and boundary conditions.

This is Probabilistic Hazard Assessment. ChEESE will demonstrate, with Pilot Demonstrators on Physics-Based Probabilistic Seismic Hazard Assessment (PD59, Probabilistic Volcanic Hazard Assessment (PD6) and Probabilistic Tsunami Hazard Assessment (PD7), the capability of Exascale Computing to perform large ensemble, physics-based simulations to quantitatively assess natural hazards and their related uncertainties.

(*) Pilot Demonstrators ( are prototype applications in the field of seismology, volcanology and tsunami research that make use of massively parallel architectures available to ChEESE at European Supercomputing Centres to provide scalable workflows, for the benefit of the scientific community and of the whole society.


Scientists yearn to know,

society needs to know.