Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Atwater, Brian F.
Location U.S. Geological Survey
Primary Field Geology
Secondary Field Geophysics
 Election Citation
Atwater uses geophysical data to provide advisories for earthquake and tsunami hazards in North America and developing countries. He proved that subduction off the western United States produces giant earthquakes every few hundred years, which pose a seismic and tsunami threat to coastal residents of the Pacific Northwest.
 Research Interests
Having used geology as a long-term advisory of earthquakes and tsunamis in the Cascadia region of western North American, I now try to make this strategy helpful to developing countries. I seek to mentor their scientists in assessing tsunami hazards on the centennial and millennial timescales of great-earthquake recurrence. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami prompted a two-year USAID program that allowed me to attempt such mentoring. In 2006 I led unsuccessful hunts for ancient tsunami deposits at Sunda Strait, southern Java, the Khao Lak area of Thailand, India's Bay of Bengal coast south of Chennai, and India's Arabian Sea coast facing the Makran subduction zone. Officially a trainer, I was being trained by rice paddies, crab-riddled mangroves, and logistics of South and Southeast Asia. The year 2007, however, brought paleotsunami discoveries by Thai and Indonesian scientists who learned with me from these failures. In 2008 I expect to remain involved in earthquake and tsunami geology at Cascadia and on Indian Ocean shores. I also plan to explore earthquake geology in the Dominican Republic, in hopes of guiding the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on tsunami hazards of the U.S. Atlantic coast.

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