Research

My research revolves around natural hazards, the socioeconomic impacts of disasters and geospatial data analysis.

Earthquakes and economic growth

Stephanie Lackner

Natural disasters are known to have devastating immediate impacts, but their long-run effect on economic growth is not well understood. For the natural hazard of earthquakes, this paper provides the first global empirical study on this topic that applies a measure of the exogenous physical hazard responsible for earthquake impacts, earthquake ground shaking. I exploit the random within-country year-to-year variation of shaking to identify the causal effect of earthquakes on economic growth. To construct a panel dataset with country-year observations of earthquake exposure and socioeconomic variables, I combine the universe of relevant earthquake ground shaking data from 1973 to 2015 with country-level World Bank indicators. I find negative long-run growth impacts for an average country comparable with recent findings for climate-related natural disasters. A typical earthquake reduces GDP per capita by 1.6% eight years later, with substantial heterogeneity by country categories. In particular, low and middle-income countries experience the greatest long-run economic damages while high-income countries may even experience some positive “building back better” effects. Based on an analysis of alternative spatial aggregation approaches, I find earthquake impacts are driven by local high-intensity events rather than spatially diffuse exposure to lower intensity shaking.

Lackner, Stephanie (2018) : Earthquakes and economic growth, FIW Working Paper, No. 190, FIW – Research Centre International Economics, Vienna, http://hdl.handle.net/10419/194225

Earthquakes on the surface: earthquake location and area based on more than 14 500 ShakeMaps

Stephanie Lackner

Earthquake impact is an inherently interdisciplinary topic that receives attention from many disciplines. The natural hazard of strong ground motion is the reason why earthquakes are of interest to more than just seismologists. However, earthquake shaking data often receive too little attention by the general public and impact research in the social sciences. The vocabulary used to discuss earthquakes has mostly evolved within and for the discipline of seismology. Discussions on earthquakes outside of seismology thus often use suboptimal concepts that are not of primary concern. This study provides new theoretic concepts as well as novel quantitative data analysis based on shaking data. A dataset of relevant global earthquake ground shaking from 1960 to 2016 based on USGS ShakeMap data has been constructed and applied to the determination of past ground shaking worldwide. Two new definitions of earthquake location (the shaking center and the shaking centroid) based on ground motion parameters are introduced and compared to the epicenter. These definitions are intended to facilitate a translation of the concept of earthquake location from a seismology context to a geographic context. Furthermore, the first global quantitative analysis on the size of the area that is on average exposed to strong ground motion – measured by peak ground acceleration (PGA) – is provided.

Lackner, S.: Earthquakes on the surface: earthquake location and area based on more than 14 500 ShakeMaps, Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 1665–1679, https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-18-1665-2018, 2018.

Gulf Coast parents speak: children’s health in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Jaishree Beedasy, Elisaveta P. Petkova, Stephanie Lackner & Jonathan Sury

This paper examines the physical and mental health of children following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (DHOS). A multi-stage sampling design was used to select households for inclusion in the study. Data was obtained from parental interviews (n=720) in the harder-hit areas of Louisiana in the US Gulf Coast. Three out of five parents reported that their child had experienced physical health symptoms and nearly one third reported that their child had mental health issues since the oil spill. Both direct physical exposure and indirect economic exposure were found to be predictors of physical and mental health issues among the children. Our findings contribute to bridge the research gap on the impacts of the direct and indirect exposures of the DHOS on the health of children. The study underscores the importance of understanding the health and recovery trajectories of children and youth exposed to disasters. Knowledge gained from this study together with the emerging literature on the effect of the oil spill disaster on children can contribute towards more evidence-based public health policies and enhance the recovery of children and their families in the aftermath of disasters.

Jaishree Beedasy, Elisaveta P. Petkova, Stephanie Lackner & Jonathan Sury (2020) Gulf Coast parents speak: children’s health in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Environmental Hazards, DOI: 10.1080/17477891.2020.1772188

A new Approach to Visualizing Spatial Exposure Data for Comparing Earthquakes

Stephanie Lackner

The comparison of different earthquakes with each other is a popular tool to highlight particular aspects of one or several events. The objective is often to demonstrate differences in the social conditions and how those affect the outcome of earthquake impacts. In this work I argue that for a comprehensive comparison of events it is necessary to first discuss the differences in the natural hazard of ground shaking itself. Unfortunately, whenever differences in shaking are discussed, these discussions usually provide technical details that describe why the shaking was different and neglect to present how the shaking was different. In this work I suggest and demonstrate an approach that utilizes two separate but complimentary steps of data visualizations which can facilitate an effective communication of earthquake shaking and population exposure data to non-experts. The suggested approach can be applied to any ground motion parameter. The first step is a geospatial comparison of shaking maps at the same spatial and color scale. The second step simplifies the interpretation of the shaking profiles by removing the spatial component and plotting shaking and population “exposure curves” which I define in this work. In some cases the exposure curves allow for a clear ranking of events in terms of shaking strength or population exposure.

Working Paper available soon