Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

Distinguished Lecture Series: Dr. Jean-Philippe Avouac

Title: “Silent uplift, Monsoonal swing and millenary quakes in the Himalaya”

Abstract: Why is the Himalayan so high and so steep? For one, the crust is deforming and earthquakes are at play. The small earthquakes, which are intriguingly sensitive to the Monsoon, correlate with the high topography, but don’t seem to contribute much to mountain building. Sure enough, the Mw 7.8 Gorkha earthquake ruptured the main fault along which the Himalaya is thrust over India. Then how come the high Himalayan peaks went down during the Mw 7.8 Gorkha earthquake? And how come the earthquake didn’t rupture the mountain front where the fault reaches the surface? Why was the ground shaking so mildly in Kathmandu right above the rupture, leaving most of the town intact, while some taller buildings were severely damaged and even collapsed? This presentation will outline an integrated model that reconciles these intriguing observations with our knowledge of the structure and long-term evolution of the range, and draw the implications for seismic hazard. Millenary ~Mw9 earthquakes seem required to balance the strain budget in this framework.

Bio: Jean-Philippe Avouac is the Earle C. Anthony Professor of Geology and of Mechanical and Civil Engineering at the California Institute of Technology and the director of the IUCRC/NSF Center for Geomechanics and Mitigation of Geohazards. He worked as the BP-McKenzie Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge , UK in 2014-2015. He was the director of the Caltech Tectonics Observatory from 2004 to 2014.

Jean-Philippe Avouac graduated from Ecole Polytechnique in 1987 and received his PhD in Geology from the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, France, in 1991.

Jean-Philippe Avouac has been studying earthquakes and tectonic processes for more than 25 years. He has contributed to method developments in remote sensing, geodesy, geomorphology and seismology. He uses these techniques to inform theory and develop numerical models of earthquakes, deformation of the crust and mountain building processes.

Jean-Philippe Avouac is currently Editor-in-chief of Earth and Planetary Science Letters, and he served as the Editor-in-chief of Tectonophysics from 2014 to 2018. He is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union and president elect of the Tectonophysics section. He has received international awards in particular from the Humboldt Foundation (Germany) and the Royal Society (UK).

Jean-Philippe Avouac has published more than 180 articles in international peer-reviewed journals and holds patents in image processing.


Thursday, February 28, 2019


CIRES Auditorium, Room 338

Event Type