Studying Earthquakes and Faults From Space

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Free public lecture at UC Riverside on May 7 will discuss research methods involving satellite-based tools in understanding how continents deform under stress and respond to earthquakes

By Iqbal Pittalwala on May 6, 2014

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Photo shows Gareth Funning.

Gareth Funning takes a break from driving to observe a fault rupture. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at UC Riverside.Photo credit: Funning Lab, UC Riverside.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Modern satellite radar is capable of measuring movements of the Earth’s surface precise to a fraction of an inch. Scientists can use these capabilities to produce high resolution images of earthquakes that show in great detail the complexities of these events. They can also use the same method to study how faults are becoming loaded with elastic strain for the next earthquake.

A free public lecture at the University of California, Riverside on Wednesday, May 7, will focus on how scientists are studying earthquakes and faults from space.  Gareth Funning, an assistant professor in UC Riverside’s Department of Earth Sciences, will give the hour-long lecture.

“Although we cannot yet predict earthquakes, this technology is helping us place ever more tight constraints on our estimates of current earthquake hazards, and will help us in the future to rapidly assess earthquake damage and respond quickly to disasters,” Funning said.

Titled “Beyond Seismology: Studying Earthquakes and Faults From Space,” the lecture will begin at 5:30 p.m. in Conference Rooms D and E, UCR Extension Center (UNEX), 1200 University Ave., Riverside.  Parking at UNEX is free for lecture attendees.

The animation demonstrates a satellite measuring small scale changes in the Earth's crust.

The animation demonstrates a satellite measuring small scale changes in the Earth’s crust.

Specializing in earthquake processes and active tectonics, Funning uses research methods involving satellite-based tools in understanding how continents deform under stress and how they respond to earthquakes.

“The development and refinement over the past decade of high-precision space geodetic tools have given us a wealth of data on the movement of the Earth’s surface, which we can use to test models of continental deformation and faulting,” he said.

At UCR his lab studies the processes at work in deforming the lithosphere and controlling the behavior of active faults both during and between earthquakes.  Current research projects include assessing the state of locking of the Hayward fault in California using PS-InSAR and GPS (in collaboration with Tele-Rilevamento Europa in Milan), joint inversions of InSAR and broadband seismic data for the rupture histories of large continental earthquakes, and using the phenomenology of earthquakes studied with InSAR to infer earthquake scaling relations.

Funning received his doctoral degree in Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford in 2005.  He joined UCR in 2007.  Before UCR, he worked at UC Berkeley, where he was a Lindemann Postdoctoral Fellow, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Funning’s talk is hosted by UCR’s College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and the new Environmental Dynamics and GeoEcology (EDGE) Institute.

For more information about the talk, please call (951) 827-3182 or email jennifer.reising@ucr.edu.

On EDGE

Global climate and environmental change, and the associated degradation of ecosystems, together form the biggest issue facing society today. UCR’s EDGE Institute aims to examine life in this changing environment, focusing on carbon (molecules to organisms), nutrients, and water at various temporal and spatial scales. It brings together UCR scientists from the biological, chemical, and physical sciences to examine particular questions or issues.

Directing the institute will be the holder of the Wilbur W. Mayhew Chair, recently endowed by anonymous donors who are passionate about the ecology of the southwest. Their $1.5 million gift honors Mayhew, a pioneering ecologist, UCR faculty member and co-founder of the UC Natural Reserves System. His work resulted in the preservation of key natural habitats throughout California for future generations of scientists and students. These habitats are invaluable today as laboratories of the natural world.

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