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Geophysicist LeadsNational Earthquake Panel


UCR Geophysicist on Lead National Quake Prediction Panel

James Dieterich will chair the National Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council.

(May 4, 2006)

James Dieterich

James Dieterich

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — www.ucr.edu — University of California, Riverside’s Distinguished Professor of Geophysics, James Dieterich, has been named chairman of the U.S. Geological Survey’s re-established National Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council (NEPEC).

The 12-member council, which held its initial meeting today and Friday in Menlo Park, Calif., will advise the director of the USGS on earthquake prediction, forecasting and hazard assessment.

The USGS reports that earthquakes are one of the most costly natural hazards facing the nation, posing a significant risk to 75 million Americans in 39 states. The USGS has the lead federal responsibility to provide notification of earthquakes in order to enhance public safety and to reduce losses through effective forecasts based on the best possible scientific information.

Dieterich arrived at UCR in January 2005 from the USGS. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2003 for his contributions to earthquake physics. He originated the “rate and state” friction law, which is a major advance in understanding the critical role of friction to the development of earthquake prediction strategies. He investigates the properties of earthquake faults and does theoretical modeling of earthquakes in geometrically complex fault systems. His interest extends to evaluation of earthquake probabilities. Dieterich also conducts volcano research (mostly at Kilauea volcano in Hawaii) focusing on the interactions between earthquake faulting and magmatic activity within the volcano.

“I am delighted that we are re-establishing the National Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council,” said P. Patrick Leahy of the USGS. “The Council is made up of well-respected scientists, and under the leadership of Chairman James Dietrich, will be counted on to provide objective, credible analysis and opinions.”

NEPEC was re-chartered on advice from the congressionally authorized Scientific Earthquake Studies Advisory Committee, which provides oversight and guidance to the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program. The committee’s 2005 report called for a re-chartered NEPEC to serve as the forum to review predictions and resolve scientific debate prior to public debate, so decision makers are not misled by unfounded short-term earthquake predictions, the USGS reported. NEPEC was first established in 1976, formally authorized by Congress in the 1980 reauthorization of the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program, and remained active through the early 1990s, according to the USGS.

Besides Dietrich, NEPEC members include: David Applegate, USGS, vice chair; Goran Ekström, Harvard University; William Ellsworth, USGS; David Jackson, University of California, Los Angeles; Barbara Romanowicz, University of California, Berkeley; Bruce Shaw, Columbia University; Wayne Thatcher, USGS; Jeroen Tromp, California Institute of Technology; Ray Weldon, University of Oregon; Robert Wesson, USGS; and, Mary Lou Zoback, USGS. Michael Blanpied, USGS, will serve as executive secretary.

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