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Seismological Research
Seismological Research includes a lot more than simply waiting for and recording earthquakes. Scientists at Caltech are involved in a wide range of cutting edge research on many subjects relating to understanding our geologic Earth- and the geology of other planets too!

Earthquakes: Caltech scientists are actively involved in the California Integrated Seismic Network (CISN) of sensors, one of the most advanced networks in the world. In addition our scientists have pioneered the imaging of the earthquake rupture process.
The Structure of the Earth: The different chemical and physical layers of the earth can be infered and mapped by measuring the speed at which seismic waves travel through them. Scientists analyze data from our local and global seismic sensing networks to calculate wave speeds.
Geodynamics: Scientists at Caltech are working to fully understand plate techtonics, mantel convection evolution, and the relationships between plate techtonics and deep mantel movement. They collect geodetic observations including radar interferometry and GPS and use the data to constrain computer models of regional techtonic and volcanic processes.
Earthquake Engineering: Seismologists and Engineers at Caltech have teamed up to study the effects of strong ground shaking on human-built structures using computer models and shake tables. Their research is helping to build better buildings and keep everyone in Southern California and around the world safe. Visit our Caltech Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory at:
Another valuable source for earthquake engineering information is the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute:
Mineral Physics: This Lab carries out a program of shock-wave research on a wide range of Earth materials in order to compare the properties of minerals at very high pressures and temperatures with the properties of various zones of the Earth's interior as measured by seismological methods.
Theoretical & Computational Seismology: Scientists are working on developing and improving techniques for modeling regional and global scale processes on a 3D structural model of the Earth. These techniques involve large computations that are performed on a powerful "Beowulf" PC cluster at Caltech. Directly after a significant earthquake, our "Beowulf" cluster creates a movie simulation of the seismic waves available at:
Tectonics: Scientists are studying the broad architecture of the outer crust of the Earth, the tectonic plates, and their major structural or deformational features and their relations, origins, and evolution.

New and updated information of the most recent seismological research is constantly being recorded and assembled into articles, manuscripts, and editorials of the current study. To search through abstracts and pdfs of papers by our scientists visit: AND

Caltech's New Seismology High Performance Computer: Fram is a High Performance Computing (HPC) Cluster composed of 254 traditional computes nodes. Each has 12 cores and 4 GB of RAM per core. The whole cluster is connected with a low latency, high bandwidth network called InfiniBand. In addition to the traditional nodes, it also has 60 GPU based nodes with a total of 180 Nvidia M2090 GPU's. the system is backed with a 720 TB raw Lustre high performance filesystem. This filesystem can perform around 9 GB/s. The traditional processors have a peak performance of 40 Teraflops and the GPU processors have a peak performance of 110 Teraflops. This new HPC was installed in December 2011 in the basement of the Geological and Planetary Sciences Division of Caltech.

CISN Display

Reliable Delivery of Real-time
Earthquake Hazards Information to Critical Users

CISN Display

To view a pdf Fact Sheet click here.
To view a pdf of our Quick Start Registration Guide on how to register for a password click here.

Project Summary
The California Integrated Seismic Network (CISN) has collaborated to develop a next-generation earthquake notification system. The software architecture includes a client GUI known as the CISN Display, a server module identified as the QuakeWatch Server, and a comprehensive XML messaging schema. The CISN Display graphically alerts users, in near real-time, of seismicity as well as vital earthquake-hazards information following a significant earthquake. This program suite provides emergency response managers from industry, engineering, and public health the information and tools necessary to effectively deploy personnel and resources in support of recovery efforts after a major earthquake. The CISN mandate is to disseminate earthquake information in support of public safety.

Real-time Earthquake Display
Primary to the CISN Display's operation is its active graphical monitoring of near real-time seismicity. Once connected to a QuakeWatch server, the CISN Display begins monitoring earthquake transmissions originating from seismic networks and product generators across the US. Newly received messages and updates are immediately posted to the screen. Virtually all user functionality previously available in CUBE/REDI has been replicated in the CISN Display. However, the new client also boasts a number of upgrades that enhance its functionality as well as its reliability and robustness. New improvements include stateful connectivity, fail-over capability, data persistence, platform independence, a highly configurable graphical-interface and modular software architecture. These design improvements combine to form the basis of a highly scalable client designed to adapt to rapid software/hardware innovations.

Gateway to Other Earthquake Products
A secondary, but equally important function of the CISN Display is its service as a Web-portal to all relevant earthquake hazards information produced after a large earthquake. Such Web-based products may include information such as ShakeMap, Felt Reports, Focal Mechanisms, Waveform Data, Aftershock Forecast and more. URLs to these and other Internet products are automatically created on the CISN Display and made available so users have quick access to crucial decision making information In the case of ShakeMap, a behavior may be selected by the user to automatically display the ShakeMap in a separate browser window as soon as it becomes available on the Web. It is anticipated that the CISN Display will promote future online tools and services since they can be rapidly distributed and made available to critical users everywhere.

GIS Mapping Capabilities
To provide critical users a means of performing initial assessments of potentially damaged infrastructures, a GIS mapping engine has been integrated in the CISN Display. Thanks to the OpenMap project the client interface is able to plot many available formats of GIS layers. This allows users to make quick and reasonable assessments of vital infrastructure, when viewed alongside earthquake hazards information such as ShakeMap. In addition to geo-political boundaries such as state and county lines, imported GIS graphics may also represent roadways, airports, railroads, bridges and other public lifelines vulnerable to earthquake damage. In essence this mapping feature allows each organization to customize the application interface specific to their operation's needs. Additionally, recent improvements have enabled the CISN Display to automatically download and plot ShakeMap shapefiles directly onto the display map. This added behavior was a direct result of beta-tester feedback, and illustrates the cooperative approach taken in development.

Additional Benefits
One of the many residual benefits to come from CISN Display's development is its ability to extend its utility beyond California, and its operation as an all-purpose geo-hazards alarming tool. As a result of choices made early on, the application's behaviors are easily scaled to include notifications outside the CISN's region. Consequently, with relatively minor software upgrades the CISN Display's features can be customized to apply to different seismic networks nationwide.

Application Installation Requirements

    Java Runtime Environment 1.3.X or higher (available from Sun at:
    Pentium-III, 1GHz CPU speed (or comparable hardware)
    384 Mb RAM or more
    IP Address (private or public)
    Access to Internet on ports 80 and 443 without a "proxy server"
    CISN Display software:

Development Partners
The CISN Display is being developed as part of the CISN, a cooperative project between Caltech, CGS, USGS, UCB and OES. Funding for the project comes from the OES, USGS, FEMA/OES Hazards Mitigation Grants Program, and other partners. For information regarding the CISN Display contact Margaret Vinci, ERA/Caltech Programs Manager, at 626 395-6318 or Nick Scheckel at 626 395-6946.

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