The densely populated archipelago of Indonesia has more explosive volcanoes, major earthquakes, and destructive tsunamis than any other nation. The disaster potential othese geophysical hazards increases as population, urbanization, and rapid development expand into hazardous regions. Apart from reversing these trends, the disaster potential of recurring hazardous events can be reduced by focusing mitigation efforts on the most vulnerable parts of the country. The results of our collaborative research identify and characterize the regions in Indonesia that are most vulnerable to geophysical hazards, or, in other words, to predict—who’s next?
Most geophysical hazards in Indonesia arise from its unique position in a three-way collision between some of the earth’s largest tectonic plates (Figure 1). The movement of these plates is buffered by the nearly continuous release of tectonic strain energy in the form of large earthquakes, explosive volcanic eruptions, and associated tsunami and landslides that claim lives and cause societal and economic disaster. During the nineteenth century alone these hazards caused more than 200,000 fatalities throughout Indonesia (NOAA).