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Umberto Fracassi

Updated: Apr 26

Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Rome, Italy – umberto.fracassi@ingv.it


I graduated in Geology from Università di Urbino (Italy) in 1995, majoring in geodynamics and geomorphology. I then obtained a M.Sc. in Basin Evolution and Dynamics from the Royal Holloway College - University of London (UK) in 1996. Finally, I defended my Ph.D. in Earth Sciences at Università di Firenze (Italy) in 2001, focusing on morphotectonics and active tectonics.


Since 2003, I have been a research scientist at INGV (Italy). Before that, I was a post-doc at BRGM (France), Head of the Remote Sensing Group at Polo Nazionale Bioelettronica (Italy), a Research Assistant at NATO’s Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (Italy), and a Research Assistant at the Department of Earth Sciences of the Royal Holloway College - University of London.


My geological expertise includes the appraisal of seismogenic sources from instrumental/historical seismicity, field and subsurface geology, landscape parameters and displacement modelling. Most of my activity has been devoted to the geological contribution into Italy’s national seismic hazard model.


While I had originally set off as a tectonic geomorphologist with a passion for shifting landscapes, the last couple of years have steered my interests towards multi-hazards, geosphere-biosphere feedback, cascading effects across compounded vulnerabilities, energy strategy (including CCS and GHG), relocation of the built environment, and complexities in the Earth system.





Rhymes and reason: Energy and transformation make the world go ‘round




Despite the history of humankind being rather tumultuous, there is little doubt that the XXI century is destined to be the one marked by consecutive, hyperbolic crises – just of any sort. Climate tipping points, global pathogens, geopolitical instabilities, regional turmoil all contribute to not-so-subtle equilibria at the nexus throughout energy balance, strategic assets and accruing risks that press onto contemporary societies. All of this in a global context where communities feel and claim to be engaged into the transformation discourse (and with ample reason). Meanwhile, energy grids need rethinking and possibly overhauling, and pipelines thought to be enduring safety nets suddenly look more like enlacing bonds, potentially putting lives on the line instead of thriving along lifelines.


The Geosciences sit at the shifting intersection where resources and hazards have coexisted ever since energy tapping has been the premier tool of human wellbeing and development – and ever will. They also have the critical insight to openly discuss the backdrop of hazards (which rarely get much public press or rational discourse) that complement opportunities, and to dealing with vulnerabilities accrued by time, neglect, or overexploitation. Tomorrow’s geoscientists will arguably be recognized for how credibly they discuss and illuminate complexities at the natural-human nexus for what they are. They will also be called upon to reveal overarching constraints and hint at potential solutions, none of them sufficient or decisive by itself, in a framework as dynamic as Nature is – something so dearly clear to geoscientists.


Such shifting dynamics can prove stretching to citizens and human wellbeing – they already do. So, the Geosciences should lead the way in redesigning a proper, sound, narrative, both evidence based and humanly geared, to reconcile societies, risks and opportunities – all bound by motion caused by energy. If energy equates life and its maintenance, then transition implies evolution embracing complexities.


Masses through time and space may look sturdy, immutable, unshakable. Even stars do – but none is more vulnerable than our own body. Bodies make societies, shelter life, nurture development – and are exposed to ailments. Similarly, our own planet (and the space surrounding it) is exposed to a number of stressors, not merely environmental, and shows ample signs of fatigue. But it is also the greatest, most durable – and most delicate – of its own resources.


From seemingly foreign alphabets (of disciplines across social and economic sciences, operational research, intelligence) to novel mind-sets it can just take our own work as usual – in the far broader remit of human geosciences.

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