PSN-L Email List Message
Subject: NASA "QuakeSim" earthquake computer modeling system
From: "Charles R. Patton" charles.r.patton@........
Date: Fri, 23 May 2003 12:05:25 -0700
John Bluck May 22, 2003
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Phone: 650/604-5026 or 604-9000
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Phone: 818/354-0474 or 354-5011
NEW NASA COMPUTER MODELS MAY IMPROVE EARTHQUAKE FORECASTS
Advanced computer simulation tools being developed by NASA and
university researchers may soon give scientists new insights into the
complex and mysterious physics of earthquakes and enable vastly improved
Scientists at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., together
with NASA Ames Research Center, in California's Silicon Valley; NASA
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; and several universities,
are developing an advanced earthquake modeling system called QuakeSim.
When completed in late 2004, QuakeSim's simulation tools will help
scientists learn more about what makes earthquakes happen.
"At Ames Research Center we are using the world's largest single system
image computer to help JPL develop the software that will be used to
create QuakeSim," said Dr. Walt Brooks, chief of the NASA Advanced
Supercomputing Division at NASA Ames. "This one-of-a-kind supercomputer
is the result of a three-year joint development effort by NASA's Office
of Earth Science and the Office of Aerospace Technology," Brooks added.
The tools are based on the latest technologies. For example, one uses
finite element analysis, which solves complex computer modeling problems
by breaking them into small pieces. For QuakeSim, the finite elements
are comprised of tens to hundreds of thousands of measurements that show
how Earth's crust deforms in response to movement of the giant tectonic
plates Earth's landmasses ride upon. The measurements are gathered
through both ground- and space-based techniques. The latter include
global positioning system and interferometric synthetic aperture radar,
which measure the 'quiet' (non-earthquake) motions associated with plate
tectonics and the quake cycle.
QuakeSim principal investigator Dr. Andrea Donnellan of JPL calls
QuakeSim a vital step toward eventual earthquake forecasting. "The
deformation of Earth's crust and the interaction between quake faults is
a complex 3-D process happening on timescales of minutes to thousands of
years," she said. "Studying it requires sophisticated simulation models
and high-performance supercomputers. The availability of space-based
data and our current limited understanding of quake processes make this
an ideal time to develop a system for studying deformation processes
such as tectonics, quakes and volcanoes."
"New quake models developed under QuakeSim are expected to yield future
earthquake forecasts that will be used by a variety of federal and state
agencies to develop decision support tools to help mitigate losses from
future large earthquakes," Donnellan added.
QuakeSim's three major simulation tools are Park, Virtual California and
the Geophysical Finite Element Simulation Tool (Geofest).
Park simulates the evolution of a quake on a single, unstable fault over
time. It is based on current knowledge of the rate of movement (or
'slip') and friction on a well-studied section of the San Andreas Fault
in Parkfield, Calif., but it is applicable to any fault or collection of
faults. Park will be the tool of choice for researchers seeking to
determine the nature and detectability of quake warning signals. It will
determine how stress is distributed over a fault and how it is
redistributed by quakes or 'quiet' seismic motion. It also can be used
to compute the history of slip, slip speed and stress on a fault. Up to
1,024 computer processors will be used in parallel to demonstrate Park's
capability. Virtual California simulates how California's hundreds of
independent fault segments interact and allows scientists to determine
correlated patterns of activity that can be used to forecast seismic
hazard, especially for quakes of magnitude 6 or greater. Patterns from
the simulated data are compared to patterns in real data to strengthen
understanding of the quake process. The approach's potential is already
being demonstrated. Under a joint NASA/Department of Energy study lead
by Dr. John Rundle, director of the Center for Computational Science and
Engineering at the University of California at Davis, Virtual California
was used to identify regions of the state with elevated probabilities of
quakes over the next decade. Since the study was completed in 2000, all
of California's five largest quakes of magnitude 5 or greater have
occurred within 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) of these sites. The
probability of this occurring randomly is about one in 100,000. The
last three of these quakes occurred after the forecast map was published
in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in February 2002.
Geofest creates 2-D and 3-D models of stress and strain in Earth's crust
and upper mantle in a complex geologic region with many interacting
fault systems. It shows how the ground will deform in response to a
quake, how deformation changes over time following a quake, and the net
effects to the ground from a series of quakes. The entire southern
California system of interacting faults will be analyzed, covering a
portion of the crust approximately 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) on a
side. The simulation will require millions of equations and hundreds of
In addition to JPL, the QuakeSim team includes the Davis and Irvine
campuses of the University of California; Brown University, Providence,
R.I.; Indiana University; and the University of Southern California. An
independent review board provides oversight. Codes will be run on
supercomputers at NASA's Goddard, Ames and JPL facilities and other
institutions. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages
JPL for NASA.
NASA's Earth Science Enterprise is dedicated to understanding Earth as
an integrated system and applying Earth system science to improve
prediction of climate, weather and natural hazards using the unique
vantage point of space. A primary goal of NASA's solid Earth science
program is assessment and mitigation of natural hazards. QuakeSim
supports the enterprise's goal of developing predictive capabilities for
To learn more, see: http://quakesim.jpl.nasa.gov and
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