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UCSD, SDSU researcher on team studying quake dynamics

City News Service

Thanks to a $4.6 million taxpayer-funded grant, researchers from UCSD and San Diego State are part of a team to be led by a UC Riverside geophysics professor on a project focused on earthquake dynamics to determine when and where the next big one might hit.

Professor James Dieterich in the UCR Department of Earth Sciences and a team of researchers that also includes people from Brown University, Columbia University, USC and the U.S. Geological Survey as well as others from UCR will study tectonic shifts worldwide, looking for commonalities that could help with forecasting quakes.

“Observations of earthquakes go back only about 100 years,’' Dieterich

said. If we get the physics right, our simulations of plate boundary fault

systems ... will span more than 10,000 years of plate motion and consist of up to a million discrete earthquake events, giving us abundant data to analyze.’'

The five-year National Science Foundation grant will support efforts to

create enhanced fault system models that graphically represent the ground shaking associated with damaging quakes, according to Dieterich.

The simulations will help us better understand the interactions that

give rise to observable effects,’' he said. They are computationally fast and

efficient, (yielding better) long-term earthquake forecasting capabilities.

More accurate forecasting has practical advantages — earthquake insurance, for

example, relies heavily on forecasts. More important, better forecasting can

save more lives.’'

Research will center on the characteristics of temblors larger than 8.0 on the Richter scale. Dieterich noted that an increasing segment of the world’s population lives in earthquake-prone areas.