Quantifying hazards and mitigating risks


The IRD research teams from the ‘Department of Internal and Surface Dynamics of Continents’ (Disco) study the physical and biogeochemical functioning of continental environments, in a context where global changes (climatic, economic, demographic and so on) mean that we need to revise some of the knowledge acquired over the past few decades and consider the fact that the tipping points in the earth’s ‘operating system’ may soon be crossed. The work done by the Disco teams focuses on two main structural areas: observation and modelling of the continents’ physical environments, and the interactions between changes to the physical environments and socio-economic dynamics. The scientific goals are the understanding of global changes and above all climate change, the quantification of hazards, risk mitigation and the prospects for new resources.

Key figures

Flagship projects

A new type of earthquake discovered off Peru

Researchers from the Peruvian Geophysics Institute, IRD and the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis have discovered a new type of slow earthquake off the coast of Peru and, in Nature Geosciences, put forward a tectonic stress relaxation model to enable better estimation of the seismic hazard.

Andes: a huge paleolake in glacier country

A gigantic lake, Lake Tauca, covered the Bolivian highlands at the foot of the Andes during the last deglaciation. Using an original method involving fossil microalgae known as diatom, researchers from IRD, CNRS and Aix-Marseille University demonstrated the role of the disappearance 14,000 years ago of this giant saltwater lake found at an elevation of 3,500 m. As it dried out, it left behind the largest salt crust on earth (11,000 km²) that now covers the famous Salar de Uyuni.

Forecasting rain more accurately using telephones

The Rain Cell, or Rain Measurement from Cellular phone networks, project is based on an innovative, ‘green’ concept to address climate and social issues: measuring rainfall and anticipating the risks of a flood or drought, making use of the mobile telephone networks.

2015 Highlights
  • Eruption of Calbuco volcano in Chili

    IRD researchers and their partners from the University of Chili tracked the volcano’s eruption on 22 April 2015 after 43 years’ dormancy.

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  • A MOOC on river dynamics

    Researchers from IRD, the Grenoble Polytech institute and their French, Belgian and Vietnamese partners opened the second French-language MOOC on ‘Rivers and People’ in 2015.

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And in the future?

In 2016, research teams will be heavily involved in the international agenda on climate change and sustainable development, taking part in COP22 and the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III in Quito).