2020 IRIS/SSA Distinguished Lecturers

Dr. Sarah Minson

Research Geophysicist
U.S. Geological Survey Menlo Park,
Menlo Park, California

“Imminent Shaking": What Kind of Earthquake Warning is Possible?

Curriculum Vitae

Sarah Minson is a research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey's Earthquake Science Center. Her research interests include determining the physics of earthquake ruptures, and estimating the slip distribution and predicting the ground motion from earthquakes in real-time for earthquake early warning. She received her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the California Institute of Technology. Prior to her current position, she was a Mendenhall post-doctoral fellow with the US Geological Survey as well as a post-doctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology. She is a winner of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) and a Kavli Fellow (National Academy of Sciences and The Kavli Foundation). View Sarah's staff profile here.

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The United States is developing ShakeAlert, an earthquake early warning system that will provide California, Oregon, and Washington with advanced warning of potentially damaging shaking. The hopes for early warning systems are high, but the reality of what can be expected from earthquake early warning is nuanced. Earthquakes don’t happen in an instant and don’t tell us how big they will become. This means that any forecasts that we make will be imperfect, and the amount of warning will be short; in many cases, only a few seconds of warning will be possible. In spite of these limitations, there could still be significant value to earthquake early warning, especially for people who are willing to adopt a “better safe than sorry” strategy of taking protective action for earthquakes that have only a small chance of causing damage. What kind of warning system would you prefer? One that issues alerts for weak shaking, but also sends alerts for many events that do not go on to produce strong shaking? Or an earthquake early warning system that issues alerts only once ground shaking is expected to be damaging, but there is an increased chance that the alerts could be issued too late? During this talk, you will discover how an earthquake early warning system works, how warnings are issued and how much warning is possible.

Date Venue
Oct 17 2019, 7:30 PM Exploratorium, San Francisco, California
Jan 24 2020, 7:00 PM Southwestern Oregon Community College, Coos Bay, Oregon
Mar 04 2020, 7:00 PM Discovery Museum, Science Distilled, Reno, Nevada
Sep 29 2020, 6:30 PM OMSI Virtual Science Pub, Portland, Oregon

Dr. Ross S. Stein

CEO and Co-Founder
Temblor, Inc.,
Redwood City, California

How the Gold Rush and the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake Enabled Us to Divine our Seismic Future

Curriculum Vitae

Ross S. Stein is CEO and cofounder of Temblor, Inc., Adjunct Professor of Geophysics at Stanford University, US Geological Survey Scientist Emeritus, Past President of the Tectonophysics section of the American Geophysical Union, and 2018 International Distinguished Lecturer of the Geological Society of America. A Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and Geological Society of America, Stein received the 2012 Gilbert F. White Natural Hazards Award from the American Geophysical Union, and received the 2000 Eugene M. Shoemaker Distinguished Achievement Award of the US Geological Survey. In 2003, the Science Citation Index reported that Stein was the second most cited author in earthquake science during the preceding decade; he was tenth most cited during 1900-2010. Stein frequently brings insights to public media interviews and public talks, and in IMAX and Discovery Channel films. He gave a 2012 TEDx talk, ‘Defeating Earthquakes,’ which has been viewed more than 50,000 times. Stein has given the Francis Birch Lecture, Gilbert White Lecture, a Centennial Plenary Lecture, and the Frontiers of Geophysics Lecture—all keynote presentations during annual Fall Meetings of the American Geophysical Union. Stein co-founded the Global Earthquake Model (GEM Foundation), and chaired its Science Board until 2015. He is a member of the Resilient America Roundtable of the National Academy of Sciences, and the Advisory Council on Catastrophes of Zurich Insurance.

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Almost everything we love about the San Francisco Bay area is brought to us by the faults. Absent the San Andreas and Hayward faults, there would be no San Francisco Bay, the only deep protected harbor on the California coast, and so the wellspring of the Gold Rush. The Hayward fault lifts up the Berkeley and Oakland Hills, with their magnificent sunset views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The San Gregorio fault makes Big Sur ‘big.’ A bend in the San Andreas fault thrusts up the Santa Cruz mountains, the spine of the peninsula, and the Marin headlands. These coastal ranges temper the climate, bathe us in fog, and crown us in Redwoods. What I want you to see is that we enjoy the fruits of the faults every day. And so, we must learn to live with their occasional spoils—as befell the San Francisco Bay area in 1868, most famously in 1906, and 1989. You will see that while we can’t predict earthquakes, we know where and why the hazard is high. And we know how to erect buildings that can withstand anything the faults can hurl at them. During this presentation, we’ll move from the discovery of gold to the discovery of what an earthquake is, and how quakes interact, illustrated with four different demos. And, I’ll leave you with the means to assess your own seismic risk, to ensure the safety of your own family.

Date Venue
Oct 17 2019, 8:30 PM Exploratorium, San Francisco, California
Jan 25 2020, 1:00 PM Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Rutgers, New Jersey
Jul 21 2020, 7:00 PM OMSI Virtual Science Pub, Portland, Oregon
Oct 10 2020, 7:00 PM Southwestern Oregon Community College Virtual Event, Coos Bay, Oregon