Advanced Seismology II

Course Objectives

This is an advanced course designed for students involved in seismological or related research. The course objectives are to review a suite of advanced seismology topics related to earthquake processes and to seismic-wave propagation at a level that instills a deep appreciation of seismological methods in the students. The primary goal is help students learn how to study advanced material and to relate that material back to seismological observations using a mix of observation, computation, and theory. Some of the topics will be better aligned with your interests - focus on them and explore them deeply. All topics will help you develop skills that make you a more independent learner, don't ignore them.

Tentative Course Topics

We will begin with an introduction to acquiring seismic data and earthquake information, an introduction to using the Seismic Analysis Code (SAC). We will explore various ways of acquiring earthquake information and seismic data. Then we will begin with a overview of continuum mechanics appropriate for seismic analyses. After that we will explore simple, point-source earthquakes models such as the double-couple, and the moment tensor. Next we will review simple methods for computing body-wave seismograms for teleseismic source & receiver-function analyses and discuss how to use these to estimate faulting geometry and the spatial and temporal distribution of an earthquake's seismic moment using seismic observations. Then we will discuss dynamic models of earthquake rupture and discuss how these might be constrained using seismic observations. After the break we will investigate methods used for earthquake location, seismic structural imaging (such as receiver functions and surface-wave dispersion).


The equivalent of a 400-level course on earthquake seismology, familiarity with Fourier analysis, vector and vector calculus, differential equations, and elementary matrix methods, and some experience in computer programming (or MATLAB scripting) are required. If you have doubts, see me.


Learning is an activity that requires work. I will try to help you keep pace with the material in ways that I can, but you must want to learn these ideas to benefit from a course like this. You have to find the material interesting enough to stop staring at Twitter, to log off FaceBook, to put down the TV remote or game controller and to make time to study outside of class. At times you will think, "I'll never use this stuff", and that may be true of some topics. But you will use the skills that you develop learning that "stuff". Those skills are what your potential employers want. Those skills are what scientists have - we understand our science at a deep level; we have to if we want to extend that understanding.

This is an advanced graduate course. You will reap what you sow here. If you work hard, you will master some powerful ideas. If you procrastinate and try to consume the material with short intense cramming efforts, you will fail to appreciate the material deeply and you won’t be able to use it in novel ways (as in research). You will also forget the ideas within two weeks. You must work to fill in gaps in what you don't know but need to know to grasp the new material. Dust off your old books and notes, visit the library, read, think, read more, and above all discuss the material with your classmates. Practice your quantitative skills; get a notebook and solve practice problems that you create. Make connections between what we cover and things that you have heard about, read about, or thought about. Ask thoughtful questions.

Text Book & Reference Materials

You should have access to and read an introductory (quantitative) seismology book such as those written by Shearer, Stein & Wysession, Lay & Wallace, or Kennett, or something comparable. In the first half of the course we will work through much of the text Source Mechanisms of Earthquakes by Udias, Madariaga and Buforn (2014). The second half of the course will use sections of Aki and Richards (1980) and Kennett (1983), which is an earlier edition of his newer books, but which is also freely available in PDF format. When helpful, I will provide references to scientific articles that you should read. I cannot make you read, but if you want to learn, read things that are almost beyond your understanding - such articles will stretch your intellect. After you've read something, summarize the material in your own words, sketch the key results with a pencil and paper, explain it to a colleague.

Prepared by: Charles J. Ammon
January 2015