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Director of Center for Earthquake Research and Information to speak

11/5/2002
November 5, 2002

It's no secret the New Madrid Fault system lies beneath western Tennessee and western Kentucky. Based on science and statistics, that fault, which affects seven and a half million people in the mid-Mississippi Valley, is overdue for a significant shift.

When a slight tremor rattles dishes in Paducah or Clarksville, telephones ring incessantly at the Center for Earthquake Research and Information in Memphis. But public interest quickly ebbs once it appears the earth has calmed itself.

Dr. Phillip Kemmerly, professor of geology and chair of the department of geology and geography, said, “Continuing research about the New Madrid Fault zone increases our understanding of its risk to towns and cities in the region.” To discuss the potential for earthquakes in this region, the department of geology and geography is bringing a renowned expert to APSU.

Dr. Arch Johnson, director of the Center for Earthquake Research and Information (CERI), will present “Mid-America: Earthquakes Where They Shouldn't Be” at 2 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 13 in room 307, Morgan University Center.

The talk, according to Kemmerly, will not be a technical one—but it will be a timely one: Johnson and his fellow scientists have made national news in recent weeks, because they currently are causing minor earthquakes to occur in specific areas along the fault zone to test the resulting waves in a fairly controlled setting.

Johnson earned a doctorate in geophysics from the University of Colorado in 1979. His bachelor's degree in physics is from Rhodes College, Memphis.

Johnson has been with CERI since its founding in 1978. His research has focused on the frequency and distribution of earthquakes within principally stable continental regions. More recently, his research has been on relating current earthquake activity to strain rate and developing methods to quantify the magnitudes of historical earthquakes.

Considered an international expert on the topic, Johnson has testified five times before congressional subcommittees on hazards posed by seismic activity in the eastern United States.

Johnson serves as a member of the National Research Council's Committee on the Science of Earthquakes. He is an associate director of the new Mid-America Earthquake Center, which is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

He is a member of the National Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council, SSA Board of Directors, Council of the National Seismic System and Planning Committee for Active Tectonics.

He is past president of the 2,000-member Seismological Society of America and past editor of “Seismological Research Letters.” Recipient of Memphis State University's 1986 Faculty Distinguished Research Award, his publications include two articles for “Scientific American.”

Johnson's talk at APSU is free and open to the public. For more information, telephone Kemmerly at 7454.