Earthquake Engineering and Engineering Seismology

International Graduate Summer Course 2013

Key practical information

  • This is an official 7.5 ECTS course of the University of Iceland, School of Engineering and Natural Sciences, Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and is fully accredited.
  • Taking advantage of Iceland´s unique natural field laboratories, the course is taught in intensive mode for
    • 2 ½  weeks on location at the Earthquake Engineering Research Centre in the town of Selfoss, in the South Iceland Seismic Zone (SISZ, see figure at right)
    • ½ week in the town of Húsavik, in the North Iceland Seismic Zone (TFZ, see figure on right).
  • The course fee covers
    • registration to the University of Iceland
    • tuition
    • field-training in earthquake and structural monitoring
    • a four-day guided, field trip to, and in, Husavik, North Iceland Seismic Zone
    • accommodation in Selfoss, South Iceland
    • accommodation in Husavik, North Iceland
    • scientific lectures in Husavik by experts in engineering and geosciences

Further details of the above is provided on this page, and elsewhere on this Website.

General description

Earthquakes are a global threat to the man-made environment and the infrastructure of the modern society, and cause numerous casualties every year. Iceland is the most seismically active region in Northern Europe and has a long historical catalogue of damaging earthquakes. Over the last couple of decades three strong earthquakes of magnitudes 6.3-6.5 have struck in the populated lowlands of the South Iceland Seismic Zone.

An active transform fault that goes right through the town of Hveragerdi, South Iceland. In one place it lies under the town's shopping centre. Two accelerographs of the ICEARRAY I monitor differential displacements across the fault.

An active transform fault that goes right through the town of Hveragerdi, South Iceland. In one place it lies under the town’s shopping centre. Two accelerographs of the ICEARRAY I monitor differential displacements across the fault.

This current course continues the line of international summer courses held at the Earthquake Engineering Research Centre, University of Iceland, on natural hazards. It is held in the wake of three strong earthquakes in South Iceland in 2000 and 2008, and the recent earthquake sequence in North Iceland in 2012.

The goal is to provide the participants with knowledge and understanding of the multi-disciplinary nature of earthquake effects on the man-made environment. This includes addressing the various effects of the earthquake source, source-site geometry, wave propagation, site effects, and structural behavior during damaging earthquakes, and how this information is applied in conceptual and codified design according to EUROCODE 8. Participants will also obtain first-hand experience in measuring earthquake waves and monitoring structural vibrations. The skills acquired by participants in this course have international applications.

The course is held in the Town of Selfoss, in the South Iceland Seismic Zone. In addition, and included in the course is a four-day field excursion to the town of Husavik in North Iceland, which is situated atop the largest active transform fault in the country. The focus of this classroom-on-wheels is on all aspects of earthquake engineering concern for an urban area exposed to large earthquakes.

Course aim

To present the main nature and characteristics of earthquakes and to introduce the methodology used to assess earthquake impacts. Subject: Seismicity and source models. Earthquake waves and wave propagation. Strong ground motion and attenuation models. Soil amplification. Linear and non-linear response spectra. Mapping of earthquake hazard. Seismic design. Projects and examination.

Learning outcomes

Students must be able to:

  • explain the nature and effects of earthquake
  • explain strong-motion measurements and their importance and applications
  • describe the most common earthquake source models and ground motion prediction equations (models) and be able to demonstrate their applications to practical problems
  • define the most common types of earthquake response spectra and explain their importance in engineering design
  • explain the basics of probabilistic earthquake hazard analysis (PSHA) and conduct simple PSHA
  • explain the difference of hazard assessment and risk assessment and their applications
  • explain and put into practice the basics of earthquake engineering design for regular structures

Additional practical information

  • This course is tailor-made for civil engineering students. However, since the subject matter is a multi-disciplinary one connecting the fields of geosciences and engineering, we especially encourage mathematically oriented geoscience students to apply as well.
  • Iceland-Natural.Disasters-Course-Class-WebStudents in the classroom at the Earthquake Engineering Research Centre in Selfoss, during the summer course in 2012
  • This is a graduate course. Thus an undergraduate university degree (B.S., B.Sc., B.A. etc) is a minimum requirement
  • The fee for each course is 1.690 euros/student, including accommodation, course material, access to required software, excursions, wireless internet, etc.
  • The course will be taught in English, and thus English proficiency is required by the student
  • Students will receive a grade for the course upon completion. The grade will be constructed from the evaluation of student projects, class participation and a final test.
  • Students are expected to bring a personal computer (laptop) for use during the course. Wireless access will be provided at school and apartment/room
  • The “Earthquake Engineering Research Center” (Rannsóknarmiðstöð í jarðskjálftaverkfræði) will supervise the overall programme and is responsible for the course content and academic requirements
  • The students will be provided accommodation  in Selfoss, and Husavik
  • The course will be offered to international and domestic students


husavik_overview2A unique aspect of the course is four days of “classroom-on-wheels”, where we make the most out of being situated in Iceland and travel from the South Iceland Seismic Zone to the North Iceland Seismic Zone. On the way, course participants learn about natural hazards – while observing them. This learning opportunity involves the course participants and instructors interacting during the field-trip, where the location of the manmade environment in nature is the focus, with special emphasis on earthquakes and their effects.

Husavik, North Iceland, and surroundings. The hot colors show higher elevations. The dark, diagonal feature is one of the the clearest surface expressions of the 70 km long largest active transform fault in Iceland. This is the location of our Classroom-on-Wheels trip in 2013!

During this “classroom-on-wheels” the participants will observe first-hand the different, and sometimes challenging, characteristics of Icelandic nature and landscape.

The destination is the town of Húsavík, North Iceland, that sits directly atop the largest active transform fault in Iceland, the Húsavík-Flatey Fault (HFF). The town and the area has been repeatedly through history been shaken severely during strong earthquakes, exceeding magnitude 7. The town is currently in the spotlight due to the recent earthquake sequence on the western end of the HFF in 2012. The sequence is the largest one over the last 30 years, and the fault is believed to be long overdue for a strong earthquake of almost magnitude 7, as the last one occurred in 1872, over 140 years ago.

We will soon provide a link here with more information on Húsavik and the itinerary of the course: Classroom-on-Wheels 2013: Húsavík.

Basic information

  • bridge2Course Official Number: BYG227F
  • Course Official Name: Earthquake Engineering 1
  • Damage to the abutment of a seismically isolated bridge in South Iceland during the M6.3 Ölfus earthquake of 29 May 2008. Severe fling effects caused the abutment to slam into the bridge deck, which broke off this part of the abutment. The bridge was operational immediately after the earthquake.
  • Faculty/Unit: Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, School of Engineering and Natural Sciences, University of Iceland / Earthquake Engineering Research Centre, University of Iceland
  • Credits: 7.5 credits
  • Min. grade: 6.0 (out of 10.0)
  • Type: Course
  • Level: Graduate
  • Semester: Summer
  • Academic Year: 2012-2013
  • Duration: 3 weeks, 2 days
  • Dates: 30 May  – 21 June 2013
  • Supervisor: Ragnar Sigbjörnsson, Professor
  • Instructor: Benedikt Halldórsson, Associate Research Professor

Reading material

As supplied by the instructor during the course.

Special Comments

  • The course is taught in English and students must be able to demonstrate English proficiency, both written and verbal.
  • The minimum number of students is 15 (fifteen) in order for the course to be held/given. The maximum number is 20.

Tentative agenda

The course starts on Thursday 30 May 2013 and concludes on Friday 21 June 2013.
The tentative agenda is given below showing the expected daily topics.
Day #     Date     Content
1     30.05.2013-Thu     Opening ceremony. General introduction. Course overview.
2     31.05.2013-Fri     Earthquake Geological Background, Seismic waves and Induced Effects
3     01.06.2013-Sat
4     02.06.2013-Sun
5     03.06.2013-Mon     Engineering Seismology and Earthquake Strong-motion Characteristics
6     04.06.2013-Tue     Strong-motion Instrumentation: Field-work: ICEARRAY I
7     05.06.2013-Wed     C-O-W: Selfoss-Thingvellir-Akureyri-Husavik
8     06.06.2013-Thu     C-O-W: Husavik Workshop: Large Earthquakes; ICEARRAY II
9     07.06.2013-Fri     C-O-W: Husavik Workshop: Effects of Strong Earthquakes; ICEARRAY II
10     08.06.2013-Sat     C-O-W: Husavik: Field Excursion (optional)
11     09.06.2013-Sun     C-O-W: Husavik-Selfoss
12     10.06.2013-Mon     Earthquake Source Modeling
13     11.06.2013-Tue     Strong-motion modeling
14     12.06.2013-Wed     Earthquake Response Spectra
15     13.06.2013-Thu     Project work
16     14.06.2013-Fri     Seismic Hazard
17     15.06.2013-Sat
18     16.06.2013-Sun
19     17.06.2013-Mon     Independent study
20     18.06.2013-Tue     Inelastic response of structures
21     19.06.2013-Wed     Special Topics in Earthquake Engineering (Prof. Carlos S. Oliveira)
22     20.06.2013-Thu     Project work and exam preparation
23     21.06.2013-Fri     Final examination. Closing ceremony.