Nav: Home

EarthScope announces top 10 discoveries list

February 14, 2019

WASHINGTON--What are the 10 most influential, revolutionary, unexpected, or just plain amazing discoveries from EarthScope's 15-year history?

"EarthScope has left its mark on earth science in so many ways. We wanted to capture some of the breadth and variety of that legacy with the Top 10 Discoveries list, and we wanted the community to be involved," said Jeff Freymueller, Director of the EarthScope National Office from 2015-2019.

EarthScope is a National Science Foundation (NSF) program that has deployed thousands of seismic, GPS, and other geophysical instruments to study the structure and evolution of the North American continent and the processes related to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The program involves collaboration between scientists, educators, policy makers, and the public to learn about and apply exciting scientific discoveries as they are made.

The EarthScope program and the EarthScope National Office, charged with communicating EarthScope science and currently housed at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, heads into its final year in 2019.


  • Background Noise Joins the Toolbelt of Seismology
    Pioneered using ambient-noise seismic wavefields for seismic imaging. Combined with other techniques, this provided unprecedented high-resolution images of the crust and upper mantle beneath North America, in which small-scale heterogeneities in the images correlate with geological features.

  • Pacific Northwest Has a Slow Lane
    Tracked slow-slip migration in the Cascadia subduction zone using seismic instruments and GPS stations, clarifying the picture of episodic tremor and slow slip in the region.

  • Open Data Opens Doors for Students
    Provided unique education for a new generation of scientists by providing access to large, open data sets and data products.

  • Why the San Andreas Fault Rocks
    Discovered the internal structure and cause of weakness of the San Andreas Fault from the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD) rock core samples.

  • North America Is under Pressure
    Demonstrated that the entire North American continent is deforming due to a combination of tectonics and changes in surface loads (water and ice).

  • Tracking North America's Hidden Past
    Imaged new slabs of the ancient Farallon plate and its predecessors, following the trail in the mantle of the plate breaking up under North America, showing it extends from the Pacific Coast subduction zone to the eastern part of the continent.

  • GPS Warnings
    Learned GPS stations could provide effective early hazard warnings: station movements can be used to estimate earthquake magnitude in real time, similar to seismometers, to provide immediate alerts; and GPS signals can track a tsunami as the wave compresses the atmosphere above it, allowing time for an alert.

  • The Ups and Downs of Drought
    Discovered methods of using GPS to detect changes in groundwater from observed vertical crustal movements in the shallow subsurface.

  • Backtracking to Global Breakups
    Developed and applied high-resolution seismic source back-projection for imaging the rupture dynamics of large global earthquakes.

  • Laser Vision to See Earthquake Damage
    Pioneered before-and-after lidar techniques to measure earthquake displacements from the El Mayor-Cucapah earthquake.
The EarthScope National Office asked EarthScope leaders, past and present, to submit several ideas each about what they considered to be the program's top discoveries and science contributions. Current and former directors, steering committee members, synthesis workshop leaders, and longtime partners all listed ideas for the ballot. Scientists, students, and educators in the EarthScope community then had the opportunity to vote for 10 items from the list, or to write in an idea or two.

The EarthScope National Office booth (#512) will display the Top 10 Discoveries with their full descriptions. Freymueller will give the presentation "EarthScope: Lessons from a Massive Science Endeavor" on Friday, February 15, 1:30 p.m. at the first of two EarthScope sessions.


Graphics available upon request. Contact Beth Grassi at


Visit us at EarthScope Booth #512.

EarthScope will hold two AAAS sessions on February 15, 2019:

Session 1, 1:30-3:00 pm: "Earth's Mantle Reveals Evidence of North America's Storied Geological Past," will feature speakers Jeff Freymueller, current EarthScope director, discussing lessons from a massive science endeavor; Laura Webb, focusing on how the Farallon plate caused 4D changes in the North American continent; Lara Wagner speaking about Appalachian tectonics.

Session 2, 3:30-5:00 pm: "Earth's Surface Response to Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Groundwater: Bulge and Rupture" will feature speakers Anne Trehu, former EarthScope director, covering the faults and volcanoes of Cascadia; Adrian Borsa, focusing on hydro-geodesy; and Brett Carpenter, discussing the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth.

About EarthScope

EarthScope is a program funded by the National Science Foundation whose goal is to decipher the structure and evolution of the North American continent. In 2011, the project topped Popular Science's "The 10 Most Ambitious Experiments in the Universe Today" list.

Visit EarthScope at or on Social Media: Facebook: Tag: @EarthScope

Twitter: Tag: @EarthScopeInfo

Instagram: Tag: #earthscope.

EarthScope National Office

Related San Andreas Fault Articles:

Signs of 1906 earthquake revealed in mapping of offshore northern San Andreas Fault
A new high-resolution map of a poorly known section of the northern San Andreas Fault reveals signs of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and may hold some clues as to how the fault could rupture in the future, according to a new study published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.
Geoscientists find unexpected 'deep creep' near San Andreas, San Jacinto faults
A new analysis of thousands of very small earthquakes in the San Bernardino basin suggests that the unusual deformation of some may be due to 'deep creep' 10 km below the Earth's surface, say geoscientists at UMass Amherst.
USU geologists detail likely site of San Andreas Fault's next major quake
Utah State University geologist Susanne Jänecke and colleagues identify the San Andreas Fault's 'Durmid Ladder' structure, a a nearly 15.5-mile-long, sheared zone with two, nearly parallel master faults and hundreds of smaller, rung-like cross faults that could be the site of the region's next major earthquake.
Site of the next major earthquake on the San Andreas Fault?
Many researchers hypothesize that the southern tip of the 1300-km-long San Andreas fault zone (SAFZ) could be the nucleation site of the next major earthquake on the fault, yet geoscientists cannot evaluate this hazard until the location and geometry of the fault zone is documented.
'Slow earthquakes' on San Andreas Fault increase risk of large quakes, say ASU scientists
A detailed study of the California fault has discovered a new kind of movement that isn't accounted for in earthquake forecasting.
Parkfield segment of San Andreas fault may host occasional large earthquakes
Although magnitude 6 earthquakes occur about every 25 years along the Parkfield Segment of the San Andreas Fault, geophysical data suggest that the seismic slip induced by those magnitude 6 earthquakes alone does not match the long-term slip rates on this part of the San Andreas fault, researchers report November 28 in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (BSSA).
Lessons from Parkfield help predict continued fault movements after earthquakes
A new study shows that the San Andreas Fault continued to slip gradually for six to 12 years after the 2004 magnitude 6.0 Parkfield, Calif., earthquake, raising the issue of continued damage to structures built across fault zones after damaging earthquakes.
Fault system off San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles counties could produce magnitude 7.3 quake
The Newport-Inglewood and Rose Canyon faults had been considered separate systems but a new study shows that they are actually one continuous fault system running from San Diego Bay to Seal Beach in Orange County, then on land through the Los Angeles basin.
Finding fault: USU geologist probes earthquake history of Utah's Wasatch Fault
Utah State University geologist Alexis Ault is exploring processes that cause earthquakes in Utah's Wasatch Fault down to the nano-scale.
Ventura fault could cause stronger shaking, new research finds
A new study by a team of researchers, including one from UC Riverside, found that the fault under Ventura, Calif., would likely cause stronger shaking during an earthquake and more damage than previously suspected.
More San Andreas Fault News and San Andreas Fault Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at