Looking at the Man in the Moon

Caltech researchers explain why the man in the moon faces Earth

PASADENA, Calif.—Many of us see a man in the moon—a human face smiling down at us from the lunar surface. The "face," of course, is just an illusion, shaped by the dark splotches of lunar maria (smooth plains formed from the lava of ancient volcanic eruptions).

Like a loyal friend, the man is always there, constantly gazing at us as the moon revolves around Earth, locked in what's called a synchronous orbit, in which the moon rotates exactly once every time it orbits Earth. But why did the moon settle into an orbit with the man—rather than the moon's crater-covered far side—facing Earth?

Previously, some scientists have thought the fact that we see the man is just the result of a coincidence, a sort of lunar coin toss, says Oded Aharonson, professor of planetary science at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). But he and his colleagues have now found that is not the case. In the past, the moon spun around its axis faster than it does today, and their new analysis shows that the fact that the man now faces us may be a result of the rate at which the moon slowed down before becoming locked into its current orientation.

Aharonson, along with Peter Goldreich, the Lee DuBridge Professor of Astrophysics and Planetary Physics, Emeritus, and Re'em Sari of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, describe their findings in a paper published online on February 27 in the journal Icarus.

Although the moon looks spherical, it is actually elongated, almost like a football. Not long after the moon formed just over four billion years ago, while it was still hot and largely molten, Earth's gravity began to stretch its new companion. When the moon cooled, its slightly oblong shape stuck. Today, the man in the moon occupies one of the two elongated ends. 

And the reason he faces us at all times is because the moon rotates around its axis once with each revolution around the Earth, so that the same face is always pointing earthward. A couple billion years ago, give or take, the moon rotated around its axis much more rapidly, so that the inhabitants of Earth would have seen all the different sides of the moon at various times.

Eventually, however, Earth's pull on the moon slowed down its rotation through a dissipative process first explained by Goldreich in the 1960s. Tidal forces tugged on the moon, creating another slight bulge—in addition to the moon's already-elongated shape—that moved to stay on whichever side was closest to Earth at that moment. The bulge continued to point toward Earth as the moon rotated through it, causing the moon's interior to squish and flex as the bulge changed position. The internal friction from this flexing acted as a brake that slowed the moon's spinning until its rotation rate matched its revolution rate, when it settled into a synchronous orbit.

In this way, as a result of Earth's gravity, the moon became locked into an orientation with its long axis pointing toward our planet. The question, then, is why the side that ended up facing Earth is the one with the man—especially since the reverse configuration is actually favored, the researchers say. The side of the moon without the man has higher mountains and an elevated topography, they explain. Based on a naive analysis of the physics, it might be expected for this side to face Earth, because its surface—and its mass—would be closer to Earth.

In the work described in the Icarus paper, the researchers analyzed the physics of the moon and discovered that what determines which side of the moon we see is the rate at which the moon slowed down its spinning—how fast it dissipated its rotational energy. If the moon had lost energy at a significantly different rate—say 100 times faster—than it really did, there would have been a 50/50 chance that the man would face us. In that scenario, Aharonson says, having the man face us would indeed have been merely the result of a coin flip. But, as it turns out, the moon's actual rate of energy dissipation was much slower—and that means the man in the moon had about two-to-one odds of facing us. "The coin was loaded," Aharonson says.

By tweaking the dissipation rate in computer simulations, the researchers were able to simulate moons that resulted with either the man or the mountainous far side facing us every single time. In other words, they were able to load the coin however they wanted.

"The real coincidence is not that the man faces Earth," Aharonson says. Instead, the real coincidence is that the moon's dissipation rate was just the right amount to create such fascinating physics and load the coin.

But there is a caveat, he adds. The researchers' analysis is based on the present-day moon. "In the past, when the moon first locked, it could've had different properties," Aharonson notes. If that's the case, then the explanation for why we see the man might result in different odds. But, if the moon locked into its synchronous orbit relatively recently—within the last billion years or so—then there's a good chance the researchers' analysis is fitting.

The title of the Icarus paper is "Why do we see the man in the moon?" Support was provided by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter project.

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Marcus Woo
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Caltech Geochemist Wins Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching

PASADENA, Calif.—Paul D. Asimow, professor of geology and geochemistry at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), has been awarded the Richard P. Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching—Caltech's most prestigious teaching honor.

Asimow was selected for his "exceptional energy, originality, and ability to explain complicated concepts effectively," according to the award citation.

The Feynman Prize was established in 1993 "to honor annually a professor who demonstrates, in the broadest sense, unusual ability, creativity, and innovation in undergraduate and graduate classroom or laboratory teaching." Any member of the Caltech community—including faculty, students, postdoctoral scholars, alumni, or staff—may nominate a faculty member for the award. A committee appointed by the provost selects the winner.

"I'm both utterly surprised and deeply gratified, as the classes I teach are pretty small and specialized," says Asimow, who teaches Introduction to Geology and Geochemistry, and Thermodynamics of Geological Systems, among other courses. "I never expected to be considered alongside the professors who shoulder the hard work of teaching the big classes. I'm inspired by this recognition to keep putting my efforts into improving and updating what and how I teach."

Asimow says he credits his success in academia to a teacher he had as an undergrad at Harvard. "My own career path was determined by one incredible professor, James B. Thompson, Jr., who recently passed away," he notes. "I'd like to acknowledge the legacies of both Feynman and Thompson."

A member of the faculty since 1999, Asimow earned his MS and PhD at Caltech in 1993 and 1997, respectively. His research focuses on characterizing the mineralogy and melting of the earth's mantle, the formation of crust, and the nature of the core-mantle boundary.

Asimow is a member of the American Geophysical Union, the Mineralogical Society of America, the Geochemical Society, and the American Physical Society. He is the winner of the 2003 F. W. Clarke Medal of the Geochemical Society, a 2003 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow, and the recipient the 2005 James B. Macelwane Medal of the American Geophysical Union. His work was supported by a National Science Foundation CAREER grant from 2003 to 2007.

In nomination letters written by students, Asimow was commended for his enthusiasm, clarity, and depth of knowledge. Several students described him as the professor to whom graduate students in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences turn when confused about a paper, when they can't agree on the answer to a scientific question, or when they're starting a new project or finishing a composition. The award citation also highlighted what the committee called a "striking innovation" of Asimow's curriculum for an advanced graduate class in petrology; in that class, he "invites his students to vote on the subject matter of the course on the first day of the term, laying the foundation for the extensive teacher-student interaction that forms a critical part of his teaching style."

"He is as inspiring as he is informative, and a great role model for us aspiring professors," said June Wicks, a graduate student in geochemistry, in her letter nominating Asimow for the prize. "He pours his energy into describing concepts both precisely and thoroughly."

Asimow says that the best thing about teaching at Caltech is its dynamic, engaged, talented, and curious student population.

"It makes all the difference to a teacher when the students are able and willing to interact, question, and even challenge the professor," says Asimow. "With small class sizes and suitable encouragement, I often get a group of students that help me and help each other to explore a subject in a satisfying and complete way. That's very rewarding."

Previous winners of the Feynman Prize in the past four years are J. Morgan Kousser, professor of history and social science; Dennis Dougherty, George Grant Hoag Professor of Chemistry; Jehoshua (Shuki) Bruck, Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Computation and Neural Systems and Electrical Engineering; and Zhen-Gang Wang, professor of chemical engineering.

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Geological Society of America Honors Jason Saleeby

The Geological Society of America has named Jason Saleeby, professor of geology at Caltech, the recipient of their Mineralogy, Geochemistry, Petrology, and Volcanology Division's Distinguished Geologic Career Award for this year. 

The Distinguished Geologic Career Award is given to an individual "who throughout his/her career, has made distinguished contributions in one or more of the following fields of research: mineralogy, geochemistry, petrology, and volcanology, with emphasis on multidisciplinary, field-based contributions." 

Saleeby's research interests include tectonic and geochronological studies in orogenic terranes of western North America, emphasizing the paleogeographic development of the Pacific Basin and its margins.

 

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Caltech Oceanographer Tests New Technology at the Bottom of the Earth

The field of study of Andrew Thompson, assistant professor of environmental science and engineering at Caltech, presents not only theoretical challenges but logistical ones as well. That's because he is interested in the circulation and ecology of the Southern Ocean—a cold, remote region near Antarctica—and the role it plays in global climate.  

In particular, he studies a marine area at the eastern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, part of the Weddell Sea. The hostile environment of the Weddell Sea makes long-term research difficult, so he's part of a team that is seeking to monitor the region with autonomous underwater vehicles called gliders. Last month, Thompson set off on a research cruise to deploy three of these new gliders, as well as some surface drifters that follow the currents and can be tracked with global positioning system (GPS) receivers.

"The currents and fronts in this region are important because they determine the transport and dispersal of krill—an important part of the ocean food chain—and also interact and modify the outflow of dense Antarctic Bottom Water, which eventually sinks to become the densest water in the ocean," says Thompson. "This part of the Weddell Sea is the injection point for krill and these dense water masses into the greater Southern Ocean, " 

The team, which included researchers from the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, the British Antarctic Survey, and from the University of East Anglia in the U.K., collected hydrographic data from the ship—such as the temperature, salinity, and density of the water—when they weren't busy with the gliders.

"We captured the signature of dense Antarctic Bottom Water at the shelf break cascading off the continental shelf," says Thompson, who says the group spent a lot of time keeping the gliders out of the way of iceberg C-19, formed in 2002 on the opposite side of Antarctica. "It originally had a surface area of 5500 square km, but is now about 800 square km. We have some great measurements right in the lee of the berg and see evidence of it significantly disrupting the currents in the region."

The team also successfully tested an echo sounder that they attached to the gliders to measure krill biomass. The echo sounder uses sonar to detect krill swarms in the water column.

"A major purpose of the cruise was to demonstrate the capability of ocean gliders to play a key role in future polar ocean observing systems," he says. And so far, the instruments have shown favorable results. The gliders were deployed on January 23; since then, they've been collecting samples and reporting data back to Thompson via satellite when they come to the surface every few hours. At press time, the Caltech glider had just completed its 200th dive. It, along with the other two gliders, will be recovered at the end of the experiment in mid-March.

In addition to research success, the crew, which returned to land in early February, had the chance to experience some marine wildlife in their natural habitat. The boat was visited by a number of friendly humpbacks and, while taking measurements from the sea, researchers found a pod of feeding orcas.

For more pictures and details from the trip, visit Thompson's website. The "journals" section gives personal accounts and images from the voyage.

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Stolper Honored by the Geochemical Society

Edward M. Stolper, Caltech's provost and William E. Leonhard Professor of Geology, has been named the recipient of the Geochemical Society's V. M. Goldschmidt Award for 2012, the highest award of the international geochemical community. The recipient of this award is chosen annually "for achievements in geochemistry or cosmochemistry, consisting of either a single outstanding contribution or a series of publications that have has great influence on the field." Previous Caltech faculty recipients have been Sam Epstein, Clair Patterson, and G.J. Wasserburg.

Stolper's research interests center on studies of the origin and evolution of igneous rocks on the earth and other planets using experiment, theory, and field studies. Recent focuses include studies of Hawaii and other hot spot volcanoes, theory and modeling of the thermodynamics of the melting of planetary interiors, the petrology of Martian meteorites, and the role of volatiles in igneous processes.

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Heather Knutson Receives AAS Cannon Award in Astronomy

Caltech assistant professor of planetary science Heather Knutson has been named the recipient of this year's Annie J. Cannon Award in Astronomy by the American Astronomical Society (AAS). The award is given for outstanding research and promise for future research by a North American female astronomer within five years of receiving her PhD.

Knutson's research is focused on characterizing the properties of extrasolar planets, including their temperatures, compositions, and atmospheric circulation patterns using observations of eclipsing systems.

"it's been a great year for the field of exoplanets as a whole, as two of the other AAS prize winners (Caltech's John Johnson and the University of Florida's Eric Ford) also work in this area," said Knutson. "The discovery rate for new extrasolar planets has been growing exponentially in the past few years thanks to new missions such as the Kepler Telescope; with such a rich diversity of systems now available for detailed study, I'm confident that this is a field that will continue to produce exciting new results for years to come. It's my privilege to be right in the middle of it!"

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New Computer Model Explains Lakes and Storms on Titan

PASADENA, Calif.—Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is an intriguing, alien world that's covered in a thick atmosphere with abundant methane. With an average surface temperature of a brisk -300 degrees Fahrenheit (about 90 kelvins) and a diameter just less than half of Earth's, Titan boasts methane clouds and fog, as well as rainstorms and plentiful lakes of liquid methane. It's the only place in the solar system, other than Earth, that has large bodies of liquid on its surface.

The origins of many of these features, however, remain puzzling to scientists. Now, researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have developed a computer model of Titan's atmosphere and methane cycle that, for the first time, explains many of these phenomena in a relatively simple and coherent way.

In particular, the new model explains three baffling observations of Titan. One oddity was that Titan's methane lakes tend to cluster around its poles and that there are more lakes in the northern hemisphere than in the south.

Secondly, the areas at low latitudes, near Titan's equator, are known to be dry, lacking lakes and regular precipitation. But when the Huygens probe landed on Titan in 2005, it saw channels carved out by flowing liquid-possibly runoff from rain. And in 2009, Caltech researchers discovered raging storms that may have brought rain to this supposedly dry region.

Finally, scientists uncovered a third mystery when they noticed that clouds observed over the past decade—during summer in Titan's southern hemisphere—cluster around southern middle and high latitudes.

Scientists have proposed various ideas to explain these features, but their models either can't account for all of the observations, or do so by requiring exotic processes, such as cryogenic volcanoes that spew methane vapor to form clouds. The Caltech researchers say their new computer model, on the other hand, can explain all these observations-and does so using relatively straightforward and fundamental principles of atmospheric circulation.

"We have a unified explanation for many of the observed features," says Tapio Schneider, the Frank J. Gilloon Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering. "It doesn't require cryovolcanoes or anything esoteric." Schneider, along with Caltech graduate student Sonja Graves, former Caltech graduate student Emily Schaller (PhD '08), and Mike Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor and professor of planetary astronomy, have published their findings in the January 5 issue of the journal Nature.

Schneider says the team's simulations were able to reproduce the distribution of clouds that's been observed-which was not the case with previous models. The new model also produces the right distribution of lakes. Methane tends to collect in lakes around the poles because the sunlight there is weaker on average, he explains. Energy from the sun normally evaporates liquid methane on the surface, but since there's generally less sunlight at the poles, it's easier for liquid methane there to accumulate into lakes.

But then why are there more lakes in the northern hemisphere? Schneider points out that Saturn's slightly elongated orbit means that Titan is farther from the sun when it's summer in the northern hemisphere. Kepler's second law says that a planet orbits more slowly the farther it is from the sun, which means that Titan spends more time at the far end of its elliptical orbit, when it's summer in the north. As a result, the northern summer is longer than the southern summer. And since summer is the rainy season in Titan's polar regions, the rainy season is longer in the north. Even though the summer rains in the southern hemisphere are more intense—triggered by stronger sunlight, since Titan is closer to the sun during southern summer—there's more rain over the course of a year in the north, filling more lakes.

In general, however, Titan's weather is bland, and the regions near the equator are particularly dull, the researchers say. Years can go by without a drop of rain, leaving the lower latitudes of Titan parched. It was a surprise, then, when the Huygens probe saw evidence of rain runoff in the terrain. That surprise only increased in 2009 when Schaller, Brown, Schneider, and then-postdoctoral scholar Henry Roe discovered storms in this same, supposedly rainless, area.

No one really understood how those storms arose, and previous models failed to generate anything more than a drizzle. But the new model was able to produce intense downpours during Titan's vernal and autumnal equinoxes—enough liquid to carve out the type of channels that Huygens found. With the model, the researchers can now explain the storms. "It rains very rarely at low latitudes," Schneider says. "But when it rains, it pours."

The new model differs from previous ones in that it's three-dimensional and simulates Titan's atmosphere for 135 Titan years—equivalent to 3,000 years on Earth—so that it reaches a steady state. The model also couples the atmosphere to a methane reservoir on the surface, simulating how methane is transported throughout the moon. 

The model successfully reproduces what scientists have already seen on Titan, but perhaps what's most exciting, Schneider says, is that it also can predict what scientists will see in the next few years. For instance, based on the simulations, the researchers predict that the changing seasons will cause the lake levels in the north to rise over the next 15 years. They also predict that clouds will form around the north pole in the next two years. Making testable predictions is "a rare and beautiful opportunity in the planetary sciences," Schneider says. "In a few years, we'll know how right or wrong they are.

"This is just the beginning," he adds. "We now have a tool to do new science with, and there's a lot we can do and will do."

The research described in the Nature paper, "Polar methane accumulation and rainstorms on Titan from simulations of the methane cycle," was supported by a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship and a David and Lucile Packard Fellowship.

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Ironing Out the Details of the Earth's Core

Caltech researchers obtain highest-pressure vibrational spectrum of iron

PASADENA, Calif.—Identifying the composition of the earth's core is key to understanding how our planet formed and the current behavior of its interior. While it has been known for many years that iron is the main element in the core, many questions have remained about just how iron behaves under the conditions found deep in the earth. Now, a team led by mineral-physics researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has honed in on those behaviors by conducting extremely high-pressure experiments on the element.

"Pinpointing the properties of iron is the gold standard—or I guess 'iron standard'—for how the core behaves," says Jennifer Jackson, assistant professor of mineral physics at Caltech and coauthor of the study, which appears in the December 20 issue of Geophysical Research Letters. "That is where most discussions about the deep interior of the earth begin. The temperature distribution, the formation of the planet—it all goes back to the core."

To learn more about how iron behaves under the extreme conditions that exist in the earth's core, the team used diamond anvil cells (DAC) to compress tiny samples of the element. The DACs use two small diamonds to squeeze the iron, reproducing the types of pressures felt in the earth's core. These particular samples were pressurized to 171 Gigapascals, which is 1.7 million times the pressure we feel on the surface of the earth.

To complete the experiments, the team took the DACs to the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, where they were able to use powerful X-rays to measure the vibrational density of states of compressed iron. This information allows the researchers to determine how quickly sound waves move through iron and compare the results to seismic observations of the core. 

"The vibrational properties that we were able to measure at extraordinarily high pressures are unprecedented," says Jackson. "These pressures exist in the earth's outer core, and are very difficult to reproduce experimentally."

Caitlin Murphy, a graduate student in Jackson's group and first author of the paper, says the group was happy to find that their data set on the vibrational properties of iron evolved smoothly over a very wide pressure range, suggesting that their pressure-dependent analysis was robust, and that iron did not encounter any phase changes over this pressure range. To help achieve these successful measurements at high pressures, the group used some innovative techniques to keep the iron from thinning out in the DACs, such as preparing an insert to stabilize the sample chamber during compression. Additionally, they measured the volume of the compressed iron sample in situ and hydrostatically loaded the iron sample with neon into the sample chamber.

"These techniques allowed us to get the very high statistical quality we wanted in a reasonable amount of time, thus allowing us to obtain accurate vibrational properties of compressed iron, such as its Grüneisen parameter," says Jackson. "The Grüneisen parameter of a material describes how its total energy changes with compression and informs us on how iron may behave in the earth's core. It is an extremely difficult quantity to measure accurately."

The team was also able to get a closer estimate of the melting point of iron from their experiments—which they report to be around 5800 Kelvin at the boundary between the earth's solid inner core and liquid outer core. This information, combined with the other vibrational properties they found, gives the group important clues for estimating the amount of light elements, or impurities, in the core. By comparing the density of iron at the relevant pressure and temperature conditions with seismic observations of the core's density, they found that iron is 5.5 percent more dense than the solid inner core at this boundary.   

"With our new data on iron, we can discuss several aspects of the earth's core with more certainty and narrow down the amount of light elements that may be needed to help power the geodynamo—the process responsible for maintaining the earth's magnetic field, which originates in the core," says Jackson.

According to Murphy, the next step is to perform similar experiments alloying iron with nickel and various light elements to determine how the density and, in particular, the vibrational properties of pure iron are affected. In turn, they will be able to evaluate the amount of light elements that produce a closer match to seismic observations of the core.

"There are a few candidate light elements for the core that everyone is always talking about—sulfur, silicon, oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen, for instance," says Murphy. "Silicon and oxygen are a few of the more popular, but they have not been studied in this great of detail yet. So that's where we will begin to expand our study."

The study, "Grüneisen parameter of hcp-Fe to 171 GPa," was funded by the California Institute of Technology, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Energy. Bin Chen, a former postdoctoral scholar in Jackson's lab, and Wolfgang Sturhahn, senior technologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and visiting associate at Caltech, were also coauthors on the paper. 

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Moore Foundation Awards $6 Million for Research Leading to Earthquake Early Warning System

Released by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation:

PALO ALTO, Calif. —The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has awarded $6 million to three West Coast universities to create a prototype earthquake early warning system for the Pacific Coast of the United States.

The grant will allow seismologists at the University of California, Berkeley, California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and University of Washington, Seattle, in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey, to learn about the science of earthquakes and the best way to capture and analyze seismic data in order to give schools, utilities, industries and the general public as much time as possible—most likely seconds to several minutes—before the ground begins to shake.

"The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation is funding this basic, fundamental science to yield an earthquake early warning prototype that we hope will pave the way for a fully functioning system in the Western U.S.,” said Cyndi Atherton, program director for science programs at the foundation. “A warning system has the potential to save thousands of lives and millions of dollars in the event of an earthquake, and we feel it is important to resolve any scientific questions that could stand in the way of implementing such a system.”

Each university will receive $2 million over three years.

“The technology and scientific expertise exist to create a sophisticated West Coast earthquake early warning system even more advanced than Japan’s now four-year-old system, which functioned well after the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku quake earlier this year,” said Richard Allen, director of the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory and a UC Berkeley professor of earth and planetary science. “We are gratified that the Foundation is supporting research that will help us bridge the gap between the current nascent test EEW system in California and a full West Coast ShakeAlert prototype.”

“The USGS has the federal responsibility to issue alerts for earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides to enhance public safety and to reduce losses through effective forecasts and warnings. We look forward to integrating the expected results of the research funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation into our real-time earthquake monitoring systems,” said Doug Given, USGS seismologist, and EEW coordinator.

ShakeAlert, the current version of an early warning system now being tested by Caltech and UC Berkeley in collaboration with the Southern California Earthquake Center, ETH Zurich and the USGS, opens a pop-up alert on a recipient’s computer in the event of a major earthquake, listing quake location and magnitude and the estimated time before shaking should be felt. While people living near the epicenter of a quake will not have much warning, those farther from a large quake could have seconds or tens of seconds of notice before the ground shakes.

The universities will seek partners in industry to provide extra funding, test the prototype, and provide critical feedback about how they want to receive warning. Google.org and Deutsche Telekom's Silicon Valley Innovation Center have already partnered with the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory to financially support development of the prototype.

The grants from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation will help each university tailor its EEW system to the local fault system, addressing issues of rapid detection and prediction of shaking, and delivery of a warning to those in harm’s way.

“Our immediate goal in the Pacific Northwest is analysis of hundreds of GPS stations along with the existing seismometers to provide minutes of warning in the case of great coastal earthquakes,” said John Vidale, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network and professor of earth and space sciences at the University of Washington, Seattle. “At first, the warnings will alert only a group of sophisticated industry and government partners while we iron out the wrinkles and build a case for a full-blown public system, as Japan already has.”

A comprehensive earthquake early warning system along the West Coast would cost approximately $150 million over five years. The California Integrated Seismic Network earlier this year estimated that a California system would cost about $80 million over 5 years, while a Pacific Northwest system would cost approximately $70 million. CISN is a partnership of universities, USGS, and the state of California, that monitors earthquakes throughout the state.

UC Berkeley will use some of its grant money to speed up processing of data from its network of GPS monitors, enabling real-time processing needed for rapid warnings. Caltech seismologists and engineers will work together to improve estimates of shaking as a function of distance from an earthquake's epicenter, and extend these estimates to how buildings will respond.

All three universities will utilize their regional seismic networks to improve accurate assessment of earthquakes as they occur, especially large earthquakes. Current EEW systems, for example, act as if quakes rupture at only one point, when in fact, in larger earthquakes, fault ruptures can extend over hundreds of kilometers.

“The Foundation’s grant is a huge contribution to moving forward the science of earthquake early warning systems,” said Thomas Heaton, director of the Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory and professor of geophysics and of civil engineering at the California Institute of Technology.

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USGS provides science for a changing world. Visit usgs.gov, follow us on Twitter @USGS and our other social media channels. Subscribe to USGS news releases via our RSS feed.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, established in 2000, seeks to advance environmental conservation and scientific research around the world and improve the quality of life in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Foundation’s Science Program aims to make a significant impact on the development of provocative, transformative scientific research, and increase knowledge in emerging fields. For more information, please visit www.moore.org.

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Caltech Geophysicist Joann Stock Receives KINGDOM Educational Software Grant

Caltech Seismological Laboratory professor Joann Stock has been awarded a KINGDOM Software educational user license from Seismic Micro-Technology Inc. The $110,736.79, three-year license will significantly enhance geophysics and general geological computing resources in the lab. Stock and her group will use the software to interpret and visualize various data sets collected from ships using marine multichannel seismic reflection imaging to study the seafloor in locations near Antarctica, in the Gulf of California, and in the Indian Ocean. Problems they will study include activity on submarine faults and depositional patterns of nearshore sediments during periods of sea-level change.

The KINGDOM Software allows integrated geoscientific workflow spanning modeling, analytics, and data management for 3-D imaging of the faults and layers of sediment below Earth's surface. It provides a Windows-based geoscientific interpretation and allows Earth scientists to focus on analysis and interpretation of subsurface faults and layers.

For more information on Seismic Micro-Technology, click here.

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