The Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) seeks to promote global perspectives by sponsoring distinguished speakers whose work crosses disciplinary boundaries. The Distinguished Lecture Series is designed to bring outstanding scientists, as well as historians of science, science policy makers, and science journalists, and others—see past distinguished lectures—who take imaginative positions on environmental issues and can establish enduring connections after their departure. Participants interests embrace those of the University departments and programs, and the NOAA labs affiliated with CIRES. The Lecture Series is presented in each academic year.

Lecture Coordinators
Max Boykoff, Chair
Maggie Tolbert
Jen Kay
Linda Pendergrass, ex officio

Lecture Contact
Linda Pendergrass, 303-492-1595,

In the 2014 Series

All lectures are held from 4:00-5:00 pm with a reception following in the CIRES Atrium. (unless otherwise noted)

Pamela Matson

October 10, 2014: CIRES Auditorium
The Prediction Problems of Earthquake System Science

Dr. Thomas H. Jordan

System science seeks to explain phenomena that emerge from nature at the system scale, such as global climate change or earthquake activity in California or Alaska. The "system" is not a physical reality, but a hypothetical representation of nature, typically a numerical model or ensemble of models that replicates an emergent behavior and predicts its future course. In this presentation, Professor Jordan will describe how system-level models of fault rupture and seismic wave propagation are improving our understanding of earthquake predictability by posing interesting problems of contingent predictability as physics questions in a system-specific context. As an example, he will show how more accurate earthquake simulations using realistic three-dimensional crustal models can reduce the aleatory variance of the strong-motion predictions by a factor of two relative to the empirical ground motion prediction equations in current use, which would lower exceedance probabilities at high hazard levels by an order of magnitude. He will also discuss the new capabilities for operational earthquake forecasting that are being developed in several countries, including the Italy, New Zealand, and the United States.

Director, Southern California Earthquake Center
University of Southern California