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
E-mail:  John.G.Bluck@........

Alan Buis
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Phone: 818/354-0474 or 354-5011
E-mail: Alan.D.Buis-116520@............

Release: 03-40AR


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 
earthquake forecasting.
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 
computer processors.
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 

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 
quake hazards.

To learn more, see: and -end-

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