Earthquake expert wins award for research on severity of quake damage based on location
An earthquake expert has created a 3D model of the land beneath New Zealand to better understand why earthquakes are more damaging in different places.
Earthquake engineering Professor Brendon Bradley has been awarded a $200,000 Prime Minister's Science Prize to go towards his research.
Bradley knows all about earthquakes, having been in Christchurch in September 2010 and February 2011. He was also in Tokyo in 2011 when Japan was struck with a magnitude-9 quake.
The prize recognises his research which looks at why some places shake more than others, and how the earth below contributes to that.
* Getting to grips with the energy released by a magnitude-7.8 earthquake
* What happened in New Zealand's magnitude 7.5 earthquake
* How is Wellington coping 100 days on from the 7.8 magnitude Kaikoura quake?
He was one of five to share in $1 million of prize money. The top prize of $500,000 went to a team of University of Otago researchers behind a longitudinal study of Dunedin children born in 1972 and 1973, said to have provided the most detailed data on human development.
Wellingtonians took out three of the five categories.
Bradley gives the example of what happened in Wellington in November's Kaikoura earthquake, when some parts of Wellington had stronger shaking than others.
"We can't predict where or when an earthquake is going to occur, but because a building is always in the same place we can design that building to make sure it's safer."
Knowing how the ground below a building would react meant more money could go on certain structures, but less on others.
Using a 3D model of the 30 kilometres just below the earth's surface, and "super computers", scientists could simulate how the earth shook depending on whether it was on a rock site, or soft soil.
"On average what we see is in softer soils the shaking is stronger, and lasts a lot longer."
He likened it to a bowl of jelly. If the glass bowl is rock, and the jelly is the soft soil, when you shake the bowl the jelly wobbles, it's movement much larger than the movement applied to the glass bowl.
Because soil varied across New Zealand, depending on where a certain building or important piece of infrastructure was could identify if it needed to be made safer, or if it would withstand a big quake.
"It's not economic to design most infrastructure for the worst earthquake we can ever imagine because all buildings would look like bomb shelters", Bradley said.
Bradley's work has been used internationally for new building design codes, and has influenced rebuild projects in Christchurch.
The Prime Minister's 2016 Science Teacher Prize: Dianne Christenson, curriculum leader for science at Koraunui School in the Hutt Valley.
NHK shows the moment the earthquake struck in Japan pic.twitter.com/nMn1gsDAK7— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) November 21, 2016
The Prime Minister's 2016 Science Communication Prize: Dr Rebecca Priestley, senior lecturer at Victoria University.
The Prime Minister's 2016 Future Scientist Prize: Catherine Pot, former Onslow College student.