University of California, Riverside

Earth Sciences

Department of Earth Sciences

Active Tectonics

The hills are alive

Active tectonics is the study of how tectonic processes are occurring at the present day. We seek to investigate how the motions of the plates are accommodated by faults, earthquakes and other structures on the edges and interiors of continents, and in so doing develop an understanding of the processes and rheologies involved in continental deformation.

InSAR data of the 2003 Bam earthquake in Iran

We pursue these aims using various complementary datasets, such as space geodesy (InSAR and GPS), remote sensing, seismology, geomorphology and field geology. Current study areas include northern and southern California, Tibet, Iran (e.g. the area surrounding the 2003 Bam earthquake, see right) and Central America.

The Active Tectonics group is very closely related to other groups working on the mechanics of faulting and earthquakes. We participate in the wider program of Earthquake Processes and Geophysics within the Earth Sciences department at UC Riverside.

Spotlight: the view from space

InSAR (Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar) is a flourishing new technology that allows the wide-scale mapping of surface displacements using radar data collected by satellites. We use these data to study processes that cause large, rapid displacements at the surface, such as earthquakes or the inflation of volcanoes.

Surface velocities across the San Francisco Bay Area measured with PS-InSARspanning the interval 1992-2000. In the center of the image, a sudden change in color from yellow to green from west to east marks a sudden change in velocity either side of the Hayward fault. This is the result of aseismic creep at the surface. By mapping variations in creep rate, we can make inferences about the presence of locked zones on the fault, and thus the locations of probable future earthquakes

Following recent advances in data processing and the accumulation of a large archive of satellite radar data we are also able to study steady, low rate deformation (less than 5 mm/yr) at high precision (uncertainties less than 1 mm/yr). Applications of such 'persistent scatterer InSAR' data include study of interseismic strain accumulation and aseismic fault creep (with implications for seismic hazard assessments), lithospheric stress relaxation following earthquakes, monitoring slowly creeping landslides, and vertical ground motions due to land subsidence or the inflation of aquifers.


Gareth Funning (faculty bio | webpage

Selected recent publications

L Jin, G J Funning, 2017, Testing the inference of creep on the northern Rodgers Creek fault, California, using ascending and descending persistent scatterer InSAR data, J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth, 122, doi:10.1002/2016JB013535

S T Marshall, G J Funning, H E Krueger, S E Owen and J P Loveless, 2017, Mechanical models favor a ramp geometry for the Ventura-Pitas Point fault, California, Geophys. Res. Lett., 44, 1311-1319, doi:10.1002/2016GL072289.

M A Floyd, R J Walters, J R Elliott, G J Funning, J L Svarc, J R Murray, A J Hooper, Y Larsen, P Marinkovic, R B├╝rgmann, I A Johanson, and T J Wright, 2016, Rupture and afterslip of the 2014 South Napa earthquake reveal spatial variations in fault friction related to lithology, Geophys. Res. Lett., 43, doi:10.1002/2016GL069428

G J Funning, Y Fukahata, Y Yagi and B Parsons, 2014, A method for the joint inversion of geodetic and seismic waveform data using ABIC: application to the 1997 Manyi, Tibet, earthquake, Geophys. J. Int., in press, doi: 10.1093/gji/ggt406.


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