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Active faulting and earthquake hazard in Azerbaijan – a collaboration between Oxford University and the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences

In November 2021 two of us (Ian Pierce and Richard Walker) were able to travel to Baku to begin a collaborative project between the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences and the University of Oxford addressing regional tectonics, active faulting, and earthquake hazard. The project was due to begin in early 2020 but was postponed due to travel restrictions.

Photo: Republic Seismic Survey Center

Azerbaijan has had relatively modest earthquake activity in recent decades, but with destructive events known from preceding centuries. These include a large earthquake in Ganja in 1139, and multiple destructive earthquakes near the old town of Shemakhi, for instance in 1191, 1667 and 1902.

Photo: Republic Seismic Survey Center

Despite the known occurrence of large historic earthquakes, these are still relatively few in number considering the rapid rates of deformation measured with GPS, prompting an urgent need to re-evaluate the historical/archaeological sources, and to extract new geological records of earthquakes through ‘palaeoseismic’ trenching.

Photo: Republic Seismic Survey Center

During our visit we enjoyed the kind hospitality of the Republican Seismic Survey Center in Baku. We presented lectures and exchanged ideas for future collaboration. We were also able to undertake preliminary field investigations of active faults within the Kura basin and along the southern range front of the Caucasus, finding a number of sites that we intend to revisit for detailed palaeoseismic investigation in 2022. We will keep you updated on progress …

Photo: Republic Seismic Survey Center

The field visit was supported by the Leverhulme Trust through the ‘EROICA’ program (RPG-2018-371). We were guided in our fieldwork by digital elevation models derived from Pleiades stereo satellite imagery obtained through the Committee for Earth Observation Satellites Seismic Hazard Demonstrator Project.

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