Home  /  SCEC Research

SCEC Research

Southern California is SCEC’s principal natural laboratory for the study of earthquake physics and geology. This tectonically diverse stretch of the Pacific-North America plate boundary contains a network of several hundred active faults organized around the San Andreas master fault (Fig. 1.1). Its geographic dimensions are big enough to contain the larger (M8) San Andreas events, which set the system’s outer scale, but small enough for detailed surveys of seismicity and fault interactions. SCEC coordinates a broad collaboration that builds across disciplines and enables deeper investigations of fault system behavior than would be possible by individual researchers or institutions working alone.

SCEC research projects are supported on a year-to-year basis by a competitive, collaboration-building process (SCEC Science Collaboration Plan) that involves extensive interactions among the SCEC leadership, working groups and larger SCEC community. Additional special projects and initiatives are organized around large-scale projects funded through special grants outside of the NSF-USGS cooperative agreements that support the SCEC base program, but have synergistic goals and are aligned with the overall SCEC research program priorities.


On February 1, 2012, the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) transitioned from SCEC3 to SCEC4 under joint funding from NSF/EAR and the U.S. Geological Survey. SCEC4 is funded for the period February 2012 through January 2017.

SCEC4 moves earthquake science forward through highly integrated collaborations that are coordinated across scientific disciplines and research institutions and enabled by high-performance computing and advanced information technology. It focuses on six fundamental problems of earthquake physics. They are interrelated and require an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional approach. Interdisciplinary research initiatives focus on special fault study areas, the development of a community geodetic model for Southern California, and a community stress model. The latter is a new platform where the various constraints on earthquake-producing stresses are integrated. Improvements are also being made to SCEC’s unified structural representation and its statewide extensions.

The Six Fundamental Problems

1.     Stress transfer from plate motion to crustal faults: long-term fault slip rates.

2.     Stress-mediated fault interactions and earthquake clustering: evaluation of mechanisms.

3.     Evolution of fault resistance during seismic slip: scale-appropriate laws for rupture modeling.

4.     Structure and evolution of fault zones and systems: relation to earthquake physics.

5.     Causes and effects of transient deformations: slow slip events and tectonic tremor.

6.     Seismic wave generation and scattering: prediction of strong ground motions.

SCEC4 successes include the Special Fault Study Areas in the San Gorgonio Pass and Ventura regions, where interdisciplinary studies have changed our understanding of large fault ruptures and their hazards [[i],[ii]].