CERI7280 Seismotectonics
Tu & Th 13:00-14:25 PM
CERI House 3 Class Room

Instructors: Chris Powel and Bob Smalley
Office hours: Open (stop by any time you see us in the office).

Possible mechanism for plate tectonics. From Holden & Vogt, EOS 1977.

Course Description:

Synthesis of earthquake, geophysical, geodetic and geological data to deduce the tectonic framework of active plate boundaries and intraplate seismic zones. Evolution of plate boundaries over time. Space-base geodetic techniques will be emphasized.

Basic knowledge of UNIX and MATLAB is helpful (necessary!).

There is no text.
Course requirements:
Students must attend all lectures. Class absences must be discussed PRIOR to a missed class.

Homework assignments must be handed in on time. Homework will require some computer programming (MATLAB recommended).

The class will include a research project. The project must be approved before starting work. Each student will give a 20 minute presentation the last day of class.
Whole letter grade (no ).

30% homework, 35% class participation, 35% final project. There will be no final exam.

The class will include both student and instructor lead discussions on the assigned reading and material presented in class and participation in the class discussions will be important.
Each student will select a seismogenic region and design, implement and present a research project on that region.  The region can be interplate (plate boundary) or intraplate (plate interior) activity and include earthquakes at all depths. The scale can be local (e.g. individual seismic structure or earthquake) to regional (e.g. a complete orogen or plate boundary).

A sample outline for a regional scale project could be:
    1. Describe the past and present tectonics of the region and relate this to plate tectonic activity.
    2. Describe the earthquake activity and the relationship to tectonics.
    3. Describe the geological and geophysical data used to study the region.
    4. Discuss a possible driving force for the earthquake activity.

The topic should be discussed with the instructors, decided on and approved no later than October 11 (Fall break). Each student will give a 15 minute PowerPoint presentation on their project the last day of class. A five page project report, the power point, and all scripts/programs/macros prepared should be submitted by the scheduled Final Exam.


        (Links open a pdf of the ppt file presented in class. The ppt files were made on a Mac and may not display properly - especially math - on a PC. The pdf files show the math correctly on the PC, but don't properly display slides with animation.)

Aug  23  Tu  Class 01
Week 1
Plate Tectonics and earthquake relationship.

Reading and class student discussion leader for Tu, Aug 30.
Isacks, Oliver, and Sykes: Seismology and the new global tectonics
first half, up to but not including, the section starting with
"Compatability of Movements on a Worldwide Scale" on p 25.
Oluwaseun Fadugba.
Aug  25  Th  Class 02
Week 1
Rotation vectors and poles.

Class_2.pptx, invert4euler.pptx
Reading and class student discussion leader for Th, Sep 01.
Isacks, Oliver, and Sykes: Seismology and the new global tectonics - second
half, starting with section "Compatability of Movements on a Worldwide Scale"
on p 25.
Eric Jambo.
Aug  30  Tu  Class 03
Week 2
Discuss Isacks, Oliver and Sykes
Part 1 -
Oluwaseun Fadugba (25 mins).

Plate boundary motions, triple junctions.

triple junctions, Chris' notes 1

Sep  01  Th  Class 04
Week 2
Discuss Isacks, Oliver and Sykes
Part 2 -
Eric Jambo
(25 mins).

Polar wander paths.

polar wander paths, Chris' notes 2
Reading and class student discussion leader for Th, Sep 08.
DeMets C, Gordon RG, Argus, DF. and Stein, S.: Current plate motions
DeMets, C., R. G. Gordon, D. F. Argus, and S. Stein: Effect of recent revisions to the geomagnetic reversal timescale on estimates of current plate motions.
Sep  06  Tu  Class 05
Week 3
Plate reconstructions, Forces on plates.

Reconstructions: Texas Through Time.ppt, Thomas.pptx, Karlstrom.ppt, Forces: Class 5.pptx

Sep  08  Th  Class 06
Week 3
Discuss DeMets et al.
Arushi Saxena (25 mins).

Plate motions, Relative plate motion reference frames.

Class6.pptx, for derivation of rotation matrix.
Reading and class student discussion leader for Th, Sep 15.
DeMets, C., Gordon, R. G. and Argus, D. F.: Geologically current plate motions - skip section 5.
Jia Zhang.

Sep  13  Tu  Class 07
Week 4
Absolute plate motion reference frames.

Class7.pptx, shear wave splitting notes.

Sep  15  Th  Class 08
Week 4
Discuss DeMets et al.
Jia Zhang (25 mins).

Space based geodesy: plate motions and deformation - I.

Reading and class student discussion leader for Th, Sep 22.
Macdonald, Mid-Ocean_Ridges_Fine_Scale_Tectonic_Volcanic_and_Hydorthermal Processes within the Plate Boundary Zone.
Chlo Glover.
Sep  20  Tu  Class 09
Week 5
Space based geodesy: plate motions and deformation - II.

Reading and class student discussion leader for Tu, Sep 29.
Saria, E., E. Calais, D. S. Stamps, D., Delvaux, and C. J. H. Hartnady, (2014), Present-day kinematics of the East African Rift.

Peter Matheny.
Sep  22  Th  Class 10
Week 5
Active plate boundary examples -
Part 1. Oceanic Spreading boundary.

student discussion leader: Chlo Glover.

Sep  27  Tu  Class 11
Week 6
No Class - ESSA meeting
and Oklahoma earthquake fieldwork

Reading and class student discussion leader for Tu, Oct 4.
Gerya. T. (2012). Originand models of oceanic transform faults, Tectonophysics,  522-523, 34-54,
and Basile, C. (2015).
Transform Continental margins - part 1: Concepts and Models, Tectonophysics, 661, 1-10.
Arushi Saxena.

Sep  29  Th  Class 12
Week 6
Active plate boundary examples -
Part 2. Continental Spreading boundary.
class student discussion leader: Peter Matheny.

Africa.pptx, Matheny.pdf
Reading and class student discussion leader for Th, Oct 6.
TB Gerya, T.V., Chapter 2: Intra-oceanic Subduction zones.
Jia Zhang.
Oct  04  Tu  Class 13
Week 7
Active plate boundary examples -
Part 4.
Oceanic and Continental Strike-slip boundary.

student discussion leader: Arushi Saxena.

Oct  06  Th  Class 14
Week 7
Active plate boundary examples -
Part 5. Ocean-Ocean subduction

student discussion leader: Jia Zhang.

Ocean-Ocean Subduction Zones System.ppt, slabs.pptx, Class14.pptx
Reading and class student discussion leader for Th, Oct 13.
Barazangi and Isacks, (1976), Spatial distribution or earthquakes and subduction of the Nazca plate beneath South America.
Jordan et al., (1983), Andean tectonics related to geometry of subducted Nazca plate.
Russo et al., (2010), Subduction of the Chile Ridge:  Upper mantle structure and flow.
Oluwaseun Fadugba

Oct  11  Tu
Week 8
No Class - Fall break. Fall break, No Class.
Reading and class student discussion leader for Tu, Oct 18.
Feldel and Bilham, (2006), Great Himalayan earthquakes and the Tibetan plateau
(pdf of paper includes supplement, 3d-def (tar file for mac), input data set 1, input data set 2.
de la Torre et al., (2007), Earthquake processes of the Himalayan collision zone in eastern Nepal and the southern Tibetan Plateau

The Feldel and Bilham paper uses 3d-def to model elastic deformation. I've put the seminal paper, Savage (1983), for this type of modeling on the web page.

Eric Jambo

Oct  13  Th  Class 15
Week 8
Active plate boundary examples -
Part 6. Ocean-Continent and Ridge subduction.

student discussion leader: Oluwaseun Fadugba.

Reading for Th, Oct 20.
Schulte, S. M. and Mooney, W. D. (2005), An updated global earthquake catalogue for stable continental regions: reassessing the correlation with ancient rifts. Geophysical Journal International, 161: 707721. doi:10.1111/j.1365-246X.2005.02554.x
Oct  18  Tu  Class 16
Week 9
Active plate boundary examples -
Part 7. Continent-Continent subduction.

student discussion leader: Eric Jambo.
Reading for Tu, Oct 25.
Boyd, O. S., R. Smalley Jr., and Y. Zeng (2015), Crustal deformation in the New Madrid seismic zone and the role of postseismic processes, J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth, 120, 57825803, doi:10.1002/2015JB012049.
Oct  20  Th  Class 17
Week 9
Global distribution of intraplate earthquakes.

Reading for Th, Oct 27.
Mazzotti, S., & Townend, J. (2010). State of stress in eastern and central North America seismic zones. Lithosphere, 2(2), 76-83.

Oct  25  Tu  Class 18
Week 10
GPS in New Madrid.

class student discussion leader: Peter


Reading for Tu, Nov 1.
Nyamwandha, C. A., C. A. Powell, and C. A. Langston (2016). A joint local and teleseismic tomography study of the Mississippi Embayment and New Madrid seismic zone. J. Geophys. Res., 121. doi: 10.1002/2015JB01761.
Oct 27   Th  Class 19
Week 10
Focal mechanisms.

class student discussion leader:  Jia Zhang.

CEUS Eq Overview

Chris' notes on stress rotation
No reading for Th, Nov 3.

Presented in class: Zoback, World Stress Map, Sonders.

Nov  01  Tu  Class 20
Week 11
NMSZ tomography.

class student discussion leader: Eric Jambo

New Madrid Seismic Zone
Reading for Tu, Nov 8.
Zhan et al., 2016.
Nov  03  Th  Class 21
Week 11
NMSZ earthquakes


Reading for Th, Nov 10.
Powell and Thomas.
Nov  08  Tu  Class 22
Week 12
NMSZ geodynamic modeling.

class student discussion leader: Arushi Saxena.

Chris' NMSZ FM ppt
Chris' strength ppt
Reading for Tu, Nov 15.
Baird, A. F., S. D. McKinnon, and L. Godin (2010), Relationship between structures, stress and seismicity in the Charlevoix seismic zone revealed by 3-D geomechanical models: Implications for the seismotectonics of continental interiors, J. Geophys. Res., 115, B11402, doi:10.1029/2010JB007521.
Nov  10  Th  Class 23
Week 12

class student discussion leader: Chloe Glover.

Chloe Powell and Thomas paper
Chris' ETSZ ppt
Reading for Th, Nov 17.
Biyrol et al.
Nov  15  Tu  Class 24
Week 13

class student discussion leader: Oluwaseun Fadugba.

Charlevoix tomo ppt
Reading for Tu, Nov 22.
Liu and Stein, 2016.

Nov  17  Th  Class 25
Week 13
Charlevoix tomography


Chris' Biryol tomography ppt

Nov  22  Tu  Class 26
Week 14
Spatiotemporal earthquake occurrance


Nov  24  Th
Week 14

Thanksgiving, No Class.
Nov  29  Tu  Class 27
Week 15

Class project presentations.
Class project presentations. We need 90 minutes, regular class
is 85 minutes, so we will go 5 minutes over.

(Changes to the notes presented in class are sometimes made based on questions/comments during the class or for something that needs correcting. The files at the links above are therefore not completely static during the semester.
Homework (Assigned and due dates):

On Tuesday of each week we will start class with a 20-30 minute, student lead discussion of a seminal paper on Seismotectonics/Plate Tectonics. One student will be previously assigned to make a 5-10 minute summary, that can include powerpoint if needed, and then lead a class discussion of the paper for the remaining discussion time.

Additional files/link:

     CERI Computer information CERI Computer Network Facts (and some opinion) (last updated 2011, somewhat out of date)

    A short history of Plate Tectonics and Euler Poles from University College London (link to a local copy here)

    The Nobel Prize of Geophysics - a review of the major contributions to the development of Plate Tectonics

    Relationship of the continents to plate tectonics - Molnar (plate tectonics is really about how the oceans work)

    Barazangi and Dorman Seismicity Map paper

   Bird (2003) An updated digital model of plate boundaries, Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems. Digital line data for plate boundaries available by FTP, and Google Earth KMZ file of plate boundaries.

    I've not tried it, but this web page has GMT5 code instructions to plot the Bird 2993 plate boundary data set. The link to the data set with the header information added does not work, but I found the data set here.

    Global strain rate model.   

A series of general audience books on the geology and geological history of North America by John McPhee - ' Annals of the Former World' series - 1) Basin and range, 2) In suspect terrain, 3) Rising from the plains, 4) Assembling California (also available together as single volume - Annals of the Former World, ~$8 used on Amazon).