IRIS/SSA Distinguished Lectureship

The Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) and the Seismological Society of America (SSA) are pleased to announce the selection of two speakers from the Earth science research community for the tenth annual IRIS/SSA Distinguished Lectures Series.

2015 Distinguished Lecturers

Dr. Thorne Lay

Department of Earth and Marine Sciences,
University of California, Santa Cruz,
Santa Cruz, California

A Global Surge of Great Earthquakes and What We are Learning From Them

During the decade 2004-2014, 18 huge earthquakes with seismic magnitudes larger than 8.0 struck around the world, sometimes causing horrendous destruction and loss of life. The annual rate of such events was 2.5 times greater than had been experienced over the previous century of seismological observations.  Deployment of global networks of very high-quality seismic, geodetic, and tsunami recording systems had preceded most of these events, allowing unprecedented signals to be recorded for these great earthquakes.

Geophysicists have analyzed the recorded waves and ground motions to determine details of each earthquake, advancing our understanding of these dangerous events.  Most of the earthquakes have involved surprises, rapidly revising scientific ideas about the behavior of huge fault ruptures and indicating the need for improved mitigation efforts.

Dr. Doug Wiens

Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences,
Washington University,
Saint Louis, Missouri

Fire and Ice: Volcanoes, Earth Structure, and the Evolution of the Antarctic Ice Sheet

The continent of Antarctica supports the largest ice sheets in the world. The history of the ice sheets is intertwined with the geological history of continent, involving processes such as mountain building, the response of the land to the weight of glaciers, and heat flow melting and lubricating the bottom of the ice sheet. Very little is known about the history of Antarctica because the ice sheets preclude the usual geological sampling and mapping, so seismology offers a method to “see through the ice” and understand the continent beneath. Recent advances in technology now allow autonomous seismographs to be deployed across the continent for the first time.

In this presentation I will discuss projects that are installing seismographs across Antarctica and summarize recent discoveries. New results reveal that East Antarctica represents an ancient continent, with an average geological age of greater than one billion years and with highlands supported by thick continental crust.  In contrast, West Antarctica shows evidence of recent tectonic activity, and high heat flow that may lubricate the base of the ice sheet. The seismographs record earthquakes from magma movement associated with volcanoes beneath the ice. The high mantle temperatures suggest low mantle viscosity, such that the response of the land to ice mass changes will occur within a few hundred years. These insights are changing the way we model the recent history of the ice sheet.

Seismograms also provide important constraints on the movement and forces acting on the ice sheets. “Icequakes” ranging from very small cracking events near the surface of the ice sheet to massive crevassing and calving episodes produce unique seismic signals that help reveal the physics of ice movement. The largest signals come from a unique region on the Whillans Ice Stream, where a 100 mile-long section of the ice stream lurches forward twice a day, triggered by ocean tides, and sending seismic waves traveling across the entire continent. This unusual behavior may signal the slowing down of this ice stream in response to changes in the amount of water along the ice stream bed.

2015 Lecture Series Schedule

Date Speaker Topic Venue
January 31, 2015 9:00AM Dr. Jean-Paul Ampuero Earth's Cocktail Party: Deciphering the Physics of Earthquakes With Networks of Seismic Arrays Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
July 13, 2015 3:00PM Dr. Thorne Lay A Global Surge of Great Earthquakes and What We are Learning From Them OMSI Science Pub, The Hollywood Theatre
October 23, 2015 3:00PM Dr. Thorne Lay A Global Surge of Great Earthquakes and What We are Learning From Them Cleveland Museum of Natural History
October 26, 2015 3:00PM Dr. Doug Wiens Fire and Ice: Volcanoes, Earth Structure, and the Evolution of the Antarctic Ice Sheet OMSI Science Pub, The Venetian Theatre

The lecturers will be presenting talks aimed at general public audiences throughout 2015.

The Lecture Series is seeking museum, university, and other venues for this season's speakers.

All lectures must be arranged for general public audiences. Due to the nature of the funding source for this program, lectures can not be arranged as part of a University Department Colloquium Series.

General arrangements, including publicity, will be coordinated between IRIS, SSA and the sponsoring venue. The minimum desired audience size is 200. IRIS and SSA will cover all speaker costs and may also provide accompanying seismology displays and other outreach materials if feasible.

For more information, please contact:

Patrick McQuillan
IRIS Education and Outreach Program
Phone: 202.682.2220

Distinguished Lectureship Archive 2003 - 2014

Year Speaker Topic
2014 Dr. Meredith Nettles Glacial Earthquakes: Using Seismic and GPS Observations to Map Changes in Glaciers and Ice Sheets Worldwide
2014 Dr. Jean-Paul Ampuero Earth's Cocktail Party: Deciphering the Physics of Earthquakes With Networks of Seismic Arrays
2013 Dr. Lara Wagner Imaging the Ancient Margin: How the Southeastern United States Was Built (And Why You Should Care)
2013 Dr. Gavin Hayes Mitigating Disasters: Earthquake Response in the 21st Century
2012 Dr. Miaki Ishii Dissecting Giant Earthquakes: Things We Didn't Know
2012 Dr. Gregory Beroza The Tortoise and the Hare: Slow vs Fast Earthquakes
2011 Dr. Wayne D. Pennington Preparing for the Future: Scientific and Humanitarian Lessons from the Haiti and Japan earthquakes
2011 Dr. Beatrice Magnani The New Madrid Earthquakes Two Hundred Years Later: What Have We Learned About Earthquakes at the Center of Tectonic Plates?
2010 Dr. Brian Stump Forensic Seismology and Nucler Testing: The Detective Work of Seismologists
2010 Dr. Stephen Malone Predicting Earthquakes and Volcanic Eruptions: What Can and Can't Now Be Done
2009 Dr. Aaron A. Velasco Can a Large Earthquake in Another Country Cause One in Your Backyard?
2009 Dr. Richard C. Aster Taking Earth's Pulse and Temperature Using Seismology: Roaring Oceans and Singing Icebergs
2008 Dr. Cliff Frohlich Deep Earthquakes and the Secret of Seismology
2008 Dr. Uri ten Brink Peace and Science in the Middle East
2007 Dr. Anne Sheehan Seeing Beneath Mt. Everest: Probing a Breeding Ground of Destructive Earthquakes
2007 Dr. Brian Atwater The Orphan Tsunami of 1700 - A Trans-Pacific Detective Story
2006 Dr. Mary Lou Zoback The 1906 Earthquake - Lessons Learned, Lessons Forgotten, and Future Directions
2006 Dr. Ed Garnero Vibrations From the Deep: Deciphering the Birth and Death of the Earth's Surface
2006 Dr. Seth Stein Giant Earthquakes: Why, Where, When, and What We Can Do
2005 Dr. Michael Wysession Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and a Modern Journey to the Center of the Earth
2005 Dr. Susan Hough The Very Long Reach of Very Large Earthquakes
2004 Dr. David E. James Revealing the Mysteries of the Earth's Deep Interior: Plates, Plumes, and the Birth of Modern Seismology
2004  David Wald Rapid Earthquake Information: Citizen Science and New Tools for Emergency Response
2003 Dr. Roger Bilham Death and Construction: Earthquakes on an Urban Planet
2003 Dr. Walter Mooney The Discovery of the Earth: The Quest to Understand the Interior of our Planet