Scenarios from ShakeMaps

Beginning with version 3.1, the engine is able to perform scenario_risk and scenario_damage calculations starting from the GeoJSON feed for ShakeMaps provided by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Furthermore, starting from version 3.12 it is possible to use ShakeMaps from other sources like the local filesystem or a custom URL.

Running the Calculation

In order to enable this functionality one has to prepare a parent calculation containing the exposure and risk functions for the region of interest, say Peru. To that aim the user will need to write a prepare_job.ini file like this one:

description = Peru - Preloading exposure and vulnerability
calculation_mode = scenario
exposure_file = exposure_model.xml
structural_vulnerability_file = structural_vulnerability_model.xml

By running the calculation

$ oq engine --run prepare_job.ini

The exposure and the risk functions will be imported in the datastore.

This example only includes vulnerability functions for the loss type structural, but one could also have in this preparatory job file the functions for nonstructural components and contents, and occupants, or fragility functions if damage calculations are of interest.

It is essential that each fragility/vulnerability function in the risk model should be conditioned on one of the intensity measure types that are supported by the ShakeMap service – MMI, PGV, PGA, SA(0.3), SA(1.0), and SA(3.0). If your fragility/vulnerability functions involves an intensity measure type which is not supported by the ShakeMap system (for instance SA(0.6)) the calculation will terminate with an error.

Let’s suppose that the calculation ID of this ‘pre’ calculation is 1000. We can now run the risk calculation starting from a ShakeMap. For that, one need a job.ini file like the following:

description = Peru - 2007 M8.0 Pisco earthquake losses
calculation_mode = scenario_risk
number_of_ground_motion_fields = 10
truncation_level = 3
shakemap_id = usp000fjta
spatial_correlation = yes
cross_correlation = yes

This example refers to the 2007 Mw8.0 Pisco earthquake in Peru (see The risk can be computed by running the risk job file against the prepared calculation:

$ oq engine --run job.ini --hc 1000

Starting from version 3.12 it is also possible to specify the following sources instead of a shakemap_id:

# (1) from local files:
shakemap_uri = {
      "kind": "usgs_xml",
      "grid_url": "relative/path/file.xml",
      "uncertainty_url": "relative/path/file.xml"

# (2) from remote files:
shakemap_uri = {
      "kind": "usgs_xml",
      "grid_url": "",
      "uncertainty_url": ""

# (3) both files in a single archive
# containing grid.xml, uncertainty.xml:
shakemap_uri = {
      "kind": "usgs_xml",
      "grid_url": "relative/path/"

While it is also possible to define absolute paths, it is advised not to do so since using absolute paths will make your calculation not portable across different machines.

The files must be valid .xml USGS ShakeMaps (1). One or both files can also be passed as .zip archives containing a single valid xml ShakeMap (2). If both files are in the same .zip, the archived files must be named grid.xml and uncertainty.xml.

Also starting from version 3.12 it is possible to use ESRI Shapefiles in the same manner as ShakeMaps. Polygons define areas with the same intensity levels and assets/sites will be associated to a polygon if contained by the latter. Sites outside of a polygon will be discarded. Shapefile inputs can be specified similar to ShakeMaps:

shakemap_uri = {
   "kind": "shapefile",
   "fname": "path_to/file.shp"

It is only necessary to specify one of the available files, and the rest of the files will be expected to be in the same location. It is also possible to have them contained together in a *.zip file. There are at least a *.shp-main file and a *.dbf-dBASE file required. The record field names, intensity measure types and units all need to be the same as with regular USGS ShakeMaps.

Irrespective of the input, the engine will perform the following operations:

  1. download the ShakeMap and convert it into a format suitable for further processing, i.e. a ShakeMaps array with lon, lat fields
  2. the ShakeMap array will be associated to the hazard sites in the region covered by the ShakeMap
  3. by using the parameters truncation_level and number_of_ground_motion_fields a set of ground motion fields (GMFs) following the truncated Gaussian distribution will be generated and stored in the datastore
  4. a regular risk calculation will be performed by using such GMFs and the assets within the region covered by the shakemap.


By default the engine tries to compute both the spatial correlation and the cross correlation between different intensity measure types. Please note that if you are using MMI as intensity measure type in your vulnerability model, it is not possible to apply correlations since those are based on physical measures.

For each kind of correlation you have three choices, that you can set in the job.ini, for a total of nine combinations:

- spatial_correlation = yes, cross_correlation = yes  # the default
- spatial_correlation = no, cross_correlation = no   # disable everything
- spatial_correlation = yes, cross_correlation = no
- spatial_correlation = no, cross_correlation = yes
- spatial_correlation = full, cross_correlation = full
- spatial_correlation = yes, cross_correlation = full
- spatial_correlation = no, cross_correlation = full
- spatial_correlation = full, cross_correlation = no
- spatial_correlation = full, cross_correlation = yes

yes means using the correlation matrix of the Silva-Horspool paper; no mean using no correlation; full means using an all-ones correlation matrix.

Apart from performance considerations, disabling either the spatial correlation or the cross correlation (or both) might be useful to see how significant the effect of the correlation is on the damage/loss estimates.

In particular, due to numeric errors, the spatial correlation matrix - that by construction contains only positive numbers - can still produce small negative eigenvalues (of the order of -1E-15) and the calculation fails with an error message saying that the correlation matrix is not positive defined. Welcome to the world of floating point approximation! Rather than magically discarding negative eigenvalues the engine raises an error and the user has two choices: either disable the spatial correlation or reduce the number of sites because that can make the numerical instability go away. The easiest way to reduce the number of sites is setting a region_grid_spacing parameter in the prepare_job.ini file, then the engine will automatically put the assets on a grid. The larger the grid spacing, the fewer the number of points, and the closer the calculation will be to tractability.

Performance Considerations

The performance of the calculation will be crucially determined by the number of hazard sites. For instance, in the case of the Pisco earthquake the ShakeMap has 506,142 sites, which is a significantly large number of sites. However, the extent of the ShakeMap in longitude and latitude is about 6 degrees, with a step of 10 km the grid contains around 65 x 65 sites; most of the sites are without assets because most of the grid is on the sea or on high mountains, so actually there are around ~500 effective sites. Computing a correlation matrix of size 500 x 500 is feasible, so the risk computation can be performed.

Clearly in situations in which the number of hazard sites is too large, approximations will have to be made such as using a larger region_grid_spacing. Disabling spatial AND cross correlation makes it possible run much larger calculations. The performance can be further increased by not using a truncation_level.

When applying correlation, a soft cap on the size of the calculations is defined. This is done and modifiable through the parameter cholesky_limit which refers to the number of sites multiplied by the number of intensity measure types used in the vulnerability model. Raising that limit is at your own peril, as you might run out of memory during calculation or may encounter instabilities in the calculations as described above.

If the ground motion values or the standard deviations are particularly large, the user will get a warning about suspicious GMFs.

Moreover, especially for old ShakeMaps, the USGS can provide them in a format that the engine cannot read.

Thus, this feature is not expected to work in 100% of the cases.