Goebel Receives NSF CAREER Award

Will study earthquake triggering across many scales in lab and nature

Dr. Thomas Goebel, assistant professor in the Center for Earthquake Research and Information (CERI), was recently awarded a Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Goebel’s award for $619,996, entitled “From slow to fast, micro to macro, single events to cascades: A multi-scale study of seismic event triggering in lab and nature,” is focused on earthquake triggering - a process by which earthquakes cause subsequent events with lag-times of seconds to years at distances of meters to thousands of kilometers and is responsible for 50-90% of all seismic events. Although earthquake triggering is important and occurs frequently, the primary underlying causes remain unresolved. Earthquake triggering leads to the generation of fore, main and aftershocks. Foreshocks may provide information about fault stress state and ensuing larger magnitude mainshocks. There has been some success in predicting aftershock frequency, however many questions remain, such as: Are aftershocks solely controlled by mainshock characteristics or are local crustal conditions in the Earth also important? What can we learn from the statistics of triggered events about rock and fault zone properties as well as fault roughness?

To address these questions, the NSF-funded project will concentrate on a multi-scale investigation of seismic triggering in lab and nature. The study will take advantage of the newly developed earthquake-physics lab at CERI which combines state-of-the-art seismic and optical imaging. We will use newly available high-speed, broad-band seismic instrumentation to record tiny seismic events during abrupt fault slip in the laboratory. Based on such records, we will advance the ability to detect triggering in the lab as a function of source characteristics, fault stress and damage-state. The proposed research has the goal to improve the fundamental understanding of triggering processes and earthquake cascades. In addition, this work has the potential to transform strategies for seismic hazard assessment and real-time aftershock forecasts.

About the NSF CAREER program (from the NSF Website)

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Activities pursued by early-career faculty should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research. NSF encourages submission of CAREER proposals from early-career faculty at all CAREER-eligible organizations and especially encourages women, members of underrepresented minority groups, and persons with disabilities to apply.

For more information on the NSF CAREER program, please contact the Division of Research & Innovation at researchdev@memphis.edu. For more information on this award, contact Goebel at thgoebel@memphis.edu.