Q&A with Yehuda Ben-Zion on "A Critical Data Gap in Earthquake Physics"

Today, the opinion piece "A Critical Data Gap in Earthquake Physics" by SCEC Interim Director and USC Earth Sciences Professor, Yehuda Ben-Zion, was published in Seismological Research Letters (SRL). Here we explore Yehuda's thinking behind this concept and his background and history with the SCEC community.

Clickable fault and sig. earthquakes map (SDEDC at Caltech)

In response to the Ridgecrest Earthquake Sequence, SCEC was recently funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to deploy a variety of rapid seismological and geodetic instruments in the area to capture perishable data. This work is actively happening now, as natural events (rain, wind) and manmade intrusions (offtrail hiking, driving, biking from "earthquake tourists") can negatively effect the kinds of observations attempting to be captured.

In this SRL thought piece, Yehuda goes beyond this funded work and makes the case for such instrumentation and more to be established along fault zones for better study before and during significant events, not just after or in response.

Q: Why is this concept important and what do you hope it will achieve?

A: The lack of in-situ data within earthquake rupture zones hinders significantly the progress in understanding earthquake processes. Conversely, data recorded within earthquake rupture zones will likely lead to significant progress in earthquake sciences, so it highly important to try to obtain such data.

SCEC Interim Director and USC Professor Yehuda Ben-Zion

Q: How do you envision this rolling out? How long would it take? What are we after in our tectonic context of Southern California?

Recording data within earthquake rupture zones involves new deployments of dense fault zone arrays across fault sections likely to sustain moderate to large events in the next decade or so. This holds for the entire length of the San Andreas and San Jacinto faults in southern California, which are overdue for large earthquakes, and perhaps also the Elsinore fault. 

Efforts to obtain funding to deploy “rupture and fault zone arrays” are just beginning so it is not clear at present when such arrays can be deployed.

Q: For how long have you been involved in the SCEC community and what have your roles been?

A: I have been involved in SCEC since its inception as a participating scientist, as a leader of the seismology group during 2016-2018, and as acting/interim director since January 2019.

View the article "A Critical Data Gap in Earthquake Physics"

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