Rock Physics Laboratories

Map of California showing location of Parkfield

Samples of granite used in laboratory studies of earthquakes. The rock in the foreground was fractured under high pressure, creating an irregular "fault surface."

A major goal of the rock physics laboratories at the U.S. Geological Survey is to improve our understanding of the physics of seismogenic faulting. Laboratory studies of rock properties are conducted under pressures and temperatures that simulate conditions deep in the earth where earthquakes are generated. These studies include strength and frictional behavior of rocks and fault zone materials, the velocity of seismic waves through rock, as well as the role of fluids and fluid flow in fault zones.

How is this data used?

Information on rock properties is combined with other geophysical observations to improve our models of the earthquake process, such as earthquake triggering, recurrence, rupture propagation, and ground motion. This in turn is necessary to understand earthquake hazards and risk in earthquake-prone areas.

Research Scientist: David Lockner, Earthquake Science Center.