Published: 14 Jan 2022

Ario Muhammad

Studying the Impacts of Climate Change and the Tsunami

Many people call Indonesia a beautiful country with abundant natural wealth. However, on the other hand, Indonesia is also referred to as a country in the Ring of Fire zone. This causes the country to be familiar with various geological disasters, such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, including tsunamis.

Indonesia is indeed the meeting point of three world tectonic plates, namely the Indo-Australian Plate, the Eurasian Plate, and the Pacific Plate, and is located in the Pacific ring of fire, which was formed as a result of the collision between these plates. It caused an unstoppable geological catastrophe. Then, what to do?

In such conditions, anticipatory efforts by conducting early detection of when the disaster will occur, accompanied by efforts to overcome it, become critical. That is what researchers are now doing. One of them is Ario Muhammad, Ph.D., a lecturer in the Civil Engineering Study Program, President University (PresUniv).

Ario said that for the last six years, he spent time studying the dangers of a tsunami in Indonesia caused by an earthquake. He said that recent studies show that sea-level rise due to current climate change also impacts the tsunami hazard. "Therefore, I am trying to expand my research to integrate the impacts of climate change and tsunami hazards," he declared.


To the International Scene

To expand his research on the tsunami in Indonesia, in July 2020, Ario and his colleague, Dr. Raffaele De Risi, lecturer in Civil Engineering at the University of Bristol, England, made a research proposal to be contested in the Indonesia-UK Workshop on Reduction of Climate Change Impact on Flood Risk in Urban Areas. This competition is organized by the University of Greenwich, United Kingdom, sponsored by the British Council. The participants were Early Career Researchers (ECR), both from Indonesia and the UK, who are working on research topics.

There are a number of topics contested in this event, such as flood hazard modeling, climate change impact on flood events, infrastructure vulnerability to flood and other events, climate change adaptation: structural mitigation and policies, social vulnerability, climate change and flood awareness, and risk communication. To qualify as workshop participants, Ario and his colleagues first went through a selection process, namely CV selection, research interests, presentations, and motivation statements.

In this workshop, Ario, as the lead researcher, made a research proposal on the impact of climate change on the tsunami disaster. The proposal is entitled “Climate-Change Triggered Sea Level Rise: Increased Inundation Risk Requiring Revised Evacuation Plans-An Enhanced Decision Making Process”. This proposal was later declared as one of the winners and received research funding of £8,750 or more than IDR 170 million.


Survey to North Maluku

Supplied with these funds, during 9-19 December 2021, Ario conducted a field survey to North Maluku, together with nine students of the Civil Engineering Study Program, PresUniv. They were Raditya Bintang Sugiarto (batch 2020), Ravelino Hafizh Geovenerdy, Farrel Ferdinand Rachman, I Kadek Sapta Widya Cahyadi, Destian Arby, Keivylarza Sweethania Puspita, Julia Irina Ruru, Rahmanda Alya Risayanti Putri, and Intan Dian Amalia, all of whom are from batch 2019. It was a joint project between PresUniv and the University of Bristol. Ario is an Honorary Research Associate (RA) in the Department of Civil Engineering, University of Bristol.

During the ten-day field survey, Ario conveyed four important agendas. First, a survey of the potential for temporary tsunami shelters in mosques located on the coast of Ternate City, as the most densely populated area in North Maluku. Second, a building typology survey to map the risk of economic losses due to the earthquake-tsunami-rise in sea-level in six villages, namely Tabapoma, Tutupa, Pasipalele, Yomen, Sofifi, and Guruaping villages.

Third, mapping the liquefaction potential in four villages in South Halmahera Regency, namely Tabapoma, Tutupa, Pasipalele, and Yomen villages. Fourth was the evaluation of the post-disaster recovery program in the four villages.

After conducting the survey, Ario and his team then provided direct education about earthquake disaster knowledge to the community in North Maluku.


Why North Maluku?

Of the several provinces in Indonesia that are frequently hit by natural disasters, why did Ario and his team choose North Maluku Province?

Ario revealed, North Maluku is in a very risky area of being affected by an earthquake-tsunami because it is flanked by three earthquake-tsunami sources, namely Sangihe, Halmahera, and Philippine Thrusts. He explained about this, “There is a fairly significant history of tsunamis in Maluku and North Maluku. Even in July 2019, there was an earthquake of 7.3 on the Richter Scale (SR) in the South Halmahera Regency, which destroyed hundreds of houses. Previously, we also conducted a post-disaster survey there. So, one of the missions of this research was to see the development of the post-disaster recovery program.”

In addition, Ario also said that North Maluku, which is a water area. Currently, he said, there is a sea-level rise due to climate change. This is certainly in accordance with the theme of their research.

Although the survey location was quite challenging to access because it has to pass through rivers, hills, forests, dirt roads without asphalt, and a coastal location that is famous for its big waves, Ario and his team were happy because they were able to complete the field survey well and safely. Currently, he and his team are working on articles for scientific journals that will be published soon. It belongs to the journal category Q1.

Ario also hopes that this year, there will be at least three Q1 papers from the results of this research. Regardless, he then emphasized the primary purpose of this research. He said, “But, most importantly, we want to create a multi-disaster database: earthquake-tsunami-rise sea level for Indonesia. Starting with the East and West (West Sumatra) Indonesia. This database is expected to be able to support disaster education programs in Indonesia.” (Silvia Desi Betrice, PR team. Photo: Ario Muhammad)