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An Angry Earth: Researcher delves into terrible Pakistan quake
Research View is published twice a year by the offices of the Vice President for Research and Development and University Relations at The University of Montana. Send questions, comments or suggestions to Rita Munzenrider, managing editor, 327 Brantly Hall, Missoula, MT 59812, or call (406) 243-4824. Production manager and designer is Cary Shimek. Contributing editors and writers are Brianne Burrowes, Patia Stephens, Shimek and Cory Walsh. The photographer is Todd Goodrich. For more information about UM research, call Judy Fredenberg in the Office of the Vice President for Research and Development at (406) 243-6670.
Three days after the devastating Kashmir earthquake rocked Pakistan, physical geographer and UM Professor Ulrich Kamp received a phone call asking for his expertise.
Maj. Gen. Nadeem Ahmed, the head of Pakistan’s earthquake recovery program, asked Kamp and his colleague Lewis Owen, a University of Cincinnati geologist, if they would help assess damage and study the earthquake’s effects on the people and the country. Kamp has worked in the mountains of northern Pakistan since 1993.
The 7.6-magnitude Pakistan earthquake rocked the country at 8:50 a.m. Oct. 8, lasting about 30 seconds. More than 79,000 people were killed, some 65,000 were injured and about 2.5 million are homeless.
After hearing about the disaster, Kamp and Owen crafted a proposal for a special National Science Foundation grant totaling almost $30,000 that was available for emergency research situations. The UM researcher wanted to study the earthquake in Pakistan and assess the subsequent consequences before the landscape was modified by cleanup and reconstruction.
He particularly wanted to study the role of mass movements in landscape evolution -- specifically earthquake-induced landslides. He also wanted to provide his expertise to the Pakistani people in their time of crisis.
After receiving the grant, Kamp, Owen and Jennifer Parker, a UM geography graduate student who had received an internal UM research grant, left for Pakistan a month after the quake took place.
There the scientists mapped landslides, including how many they saw, how big they were and where they were located. They also tried determining why landslides occurred in a given area. One thing they noticed is that most slides in the earthquake area took place in a special geologic setting intense in limestone and dolomite.
Kamp plans to develop a small-scale Geographical Information System using the data they uncovered. This will provide thematic maps, statistics, pictures of typical landslides, satellite images of before and after the earthquake, and a 3-D model of the landscape. Officials and the public will then be able to analyze information on geologic features, impact on human life, damage to buildings and infrastructure, and perceptions of Pakistani citizens, as well as statistics on death and relief received in individual areas.
“The main product of the GIS will be a hazard zonation map,” Kamp says. “This map will identify areas at risk and support future hazard mitigation approaches that might help to protect people and technical infrastructure in the region.”
Since coming home, Kamp and his research assistant Benjamin Growley, another UM geography graduate student, are analyzing the data and have started to develop the GIS.
Kamp is collaborating with the Pakistani government and the United Nations in sharing data and creating an even more comprehensive GIS for the Pakistan’s Muzzaffarabad area in the future. Eventually, he plans to request another NSF grant, this time for a large-scale GIS that would cover landslides in the Karakoram and Himalayan regions of Pakistan and India.
Kamp hopes to be back in the field for more research in 2007.
“Being able to study such an epic and traumatic event as this quake has been a humbling and amazing experience,” he says.