UT Dallas Quake Experts Watching Events in Japan and Region

Dr. John Oldow

Dr. Robert Stern

Dr. John Ferguson

Researchers in The University of Texas at Dallas Department of Geosciences watched with interest as more information became known about the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that buffeted Japan and other Pacific nations on Friday.

Several prominent professors have conducted extensive research on geologic formations and seismic activity in the region.

“This is one of the largest earthquake factories on the planet,” said Dr. John Oldow, head of the Geosciences Department at UT Dallas.

“This is actually not an unexpected event,” he said. “The only issue is the specific time.”

Dr. Robert Stern, a professor of geosciences at the University, described the underwater earthquake’s effect as “something like a reverse cannonball on the sea floor” caused by the slipping of the Earth’s tectonic plates.

“The sea floor comes up and pushes the water, and that water moves away and becomes what is known as a tsunami,” Stern said.

The damage from tsunamis can be notoriously difficult to predict, depending as it does on the varied sea floor conditions between the quake epicenter and the tsunami’s landfall, Dr. John Ferguson said. “The exact shape of the ocean floor, right there at the beach, determines what’s going to happen,” he said.


Academic Backgrounds

Dr. John Oldow, the geosciences program head, studies regional tectonics and active geological margins. Oldow’s research activities of the last two decades have been funded by the National Science Foundation, the United States Geological Survey, the Petroleum Research Fund of the American Chemical Society, the Department of Energy, NATO, and both domestic and foreign petroleum and mineral exploration companies.

Dr. Robert Stern, a professor of geosciences at The University of Texas at Dallas, studies complex geological systems in the Pacific Ocean. His travels to the Pacific Rim recently led to the discovery of a previously unknown underwater volcano.

Dr. John Ferguson, also a professor of geosciences, is an expert on seismology and tectonics. Dr. Ferguson has a broad range of interests in tectonics, and the application of numerical modeling, signal processing and inverse modeling techniques.

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Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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