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»Center of Excellence in Earth Systems Modeling & Observations

Rotating GlobeThe Center of Excellence in Earth Systems Modeling & Observations (CEESMO) is an interdisciplinary research unit. The Center focuses on observations of the Earth and modeling and analyzing the Earth systems with particular emphasis on natural hazards such as wildfires, severe weather, floods, dust storms, and earthquakes. CEESMO provides access to satellite data through its Remote Sensing and GIS lab utilizing advanced computational tools.

Hazard Applied Research

The purpose is to explore the role of the Hazard Research Group in the CEESMO in order to promote:

  • Development of applied research in hazards, and
  • Development of relationships with insurance, real estate and other industries regionally and nationally.

These developments include specific projects, examples of which are given below.

  • Hazards Due to Climate Change
  • Earthquake Forecasting
  • Wildfires and DSS
  • Sea-level Rise & Flooding
  • The group’s contributions will be to provide understandings of hazard characteristics in terms of risks and to help provide information to various stakeholders to account for climate change conditions. Subjects will include:

    • Current hazard characteristics (probability, severity, and duration)
    • Recent changes in hazard characteristics
    • Projection of hazard characteristics under climate change conditions

    The Hazards Research Group is well positioned to achieve a broad and in-depth understanding of current and future hazard characteristics that are applicable to the insurance industry. The group is made up of Chapman faculty members and scientists that have research records in climate-driven hazards and long-term associations with NASA and NOAA.

    Region- specific hazards include sudden extreme events such as floods and wildfires, chronic events such as droughts, and incremental changes such as sea level rise. Natural hazards, like droughts, wildfires, and floods are becoming more frequent and more intense in California. Consequences are losses in population, infrastructure, economic production, and ecosystems.
  • Chapman seeks partnerships for state-of-the-art forecasting of earthquakes and economic forecasting of associated risks. The prospect of a major earthquake (M=7+), as expected to occur in the next 20-30 years in California, could well be catastrophic, particularly if it struck near major population centers (such as the 2010 quakes in Haiti, Chile, or Mexicali).

    The question naturally arises whether major earthquakes can be predicted. This remains a forefront issue in science and if a reliable system could be built, it would have tremendous implications for saving lives and averting economic disaster. In particular, there is a real possibility that within a few years, combining large amounts of data and information, particularly from satellites, scientists will be able to forecast earthquakes. The Chapman team works closely with NASA and FEMA scientists and is part of a select group of international scientists who communicate amongst themselves in order to validate earthquake precursor signals, indicating an impending earthquake. Products will include:

    • Statistical forecasting of earthquake risk regions
    • Coverage of specific areas of California for forecasting of specific strong events
    • Economic models of forecasting

    Earthquake Forecasting

  • There is an increase in economic losses and insure property loss due to fires, with higher rates in the past several years in California and Western States. There have been several out-of-control incidents occurring during fairly recent fire seasons, such as the fires of 2007 and more recently the Santa Barbara fires of 2008 and the Station Fire of 2009. Access to data in near-real time would support operational issues and couple research with applications in assisting fire fighting local and State agencies.  Advanced coverage with satellites and downloading of Direct Broadcast (DB) data with an antenna system located on the Chapman University campus, coupled with advanced modeling of how fires spread (see the Chapman Forecasting System at, will provide researchers, industry and first responders with unprecedented opportunities. The system will utilize information for both timely alarms and continuous monitoring of fires and will include an end-to-end Decision Support System (DSS), with Risk Management, Early Detection, Incident Management and Recovery Management systems. The analysis will involve estimating economic and property losses caused not only by exacerbating fires, but also by the concentration of population and properties along fire-vulnerable areas in California. Besides Chapman University personnel, the team will involve stakeholders from fire agencies, business, and insurance companies.

    Remote Sensing of WildfiresWildfire Decision Support System

  • Similar considerations can be applied to sea level rise (large areas of Orange County and other parts of California are at risk). We can simulate the impacts of flooding and sea level rise to project potential impacts on real estate and insurance costs. The figure below illustrates this type of simulation.

    Sealevel Rise and Flooding