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Joyce McLaughlin

David Isaacson

Antionette Maniatty

Assad Oberai

Steven Roecker

Birsen Yazici

Mourad Zeghal

Research Scientists


Center Participants

Rob McCaffrey
Professor of Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Ph.D., Geophysics, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1981
B.S., Geophysics, Boston College, 1976

Career Highlights:

McCaffrey began his professional career in 1982 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, first as a postdoctoral research associate and later as a research scientist. While at MIT, he also spent two years as an Air Force Geophysics Scholar for the Air Force Geophysics Laboratory. McCaffrey joined Rensselaer in 1988 as an assistant professor and served for three years as chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. He spent a year as a visiting associate professor for Oregon State University in 1995 and as a visiting professor at the Ecole Normale Supérieure - Paris in 2001. McCaffrey was promoted to professor in 1999.

McCaffrey has been invited to give several keynote lectures for such events as the German-American Frontiers of Science symposium in Potsdam (1999), the Penrose Conference on Subduction to Strike-slip transitions in the Dominican Republic (1999), the Tectonic Evolution of Southeast Asia Symposium in London (1994), and the Snellius II Symposium in Jakarta, Indonesia (1987). He speaks Indonesian and some French and is a member of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

Research Areas:
McCaffrey's research interests include the analysis of geological, seismological, gravity, and geodetic data from convergent margins with attention to the structure, tectonics, and dynamics of subduction and collision. Most of these applications involve inversions; McCaffrey has developed methods specifically in earthquake waveform and crustal deformation inversions.

His work involves studying the impact of oblique convergence on subduction zone deformation to determine the reasons some deformations result in great earthquakes and others do not. McCaffrey uses teleseismic body waves and microearthquake networks to constrain the depths and mechanisms of earthquakes in order to understand variations with depth of arc-continent and arc-arc collision processes.

McCaffrey has studied the source processes of large Australian earthquakes, used slip vectors at oblique subduction zones to constrain the deformation rates and rheology of forearcs, and used Global Positioning System (GPS) to measure crustal deformation. He has conducted GPS measurements in Oregon, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea; deployed equipment through the Program for the Array Seismic Studies of the Continental Lithosphere (PASSCAL) and Rapid Array Mobilization Plan (RAMP) in Indonesia, and performed microearthquake surveys in Northern Utah, Papua New Guinea, the Molucca Sea, and Indonesia.

McCaffrey's current projects include analyzing thermal properties of subduction zones and their relationship to seismicity; observing and modeling the deformation of forearcs at subduction zones and of Southern Tibet as a response to oblique convergence, and studying aftershocks and coseismic displacements from the February 1996 Irian earthquake in Indonesia. He collaborates with such organizations as the University of Washington, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and BAKOSURTANAL, Indonesia's national coordinating agency for surveys and mapping.

Selected Publications:

McCaffrey, R.,“Time-dependent inversion of three-component continuous GPS for steady and transient sources in northern Cascadia”, Geophysical Research Letters, 36, L07304, 2009.

McCaffrey, R., “The tectonic framework of the Sumatran subduction zone”, Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 37, 345-366, 2009.

Pearson, C., McCaffrey, R., Elliott, J.L., Snay, R. “ HTDP 3.0: Software for coping with the coordinate changes associated with crustal motion”, Journal of Survey Engineering, in press, 2009.

Petersen, T., Beavan, J., Denys, P., Denham, M.,  Field, B., François-Holden, C.,  McCaffrey, R., Palmer, N.,  Reyners, M.,  Ristau, J., Samsonov, S.,  and The GeoNet team, “The Mw 6.7 George Sound earthquake of October 15, 2007: Response and preliminary results”, Bulletin of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, 42, 129-141 2009.

Prawirodirdjo, L., McCaffrey, R., Chadwell, C.D.,  Bock, Y.,  Subarya, C. “Geodetic observations of an earthquake cycle at the Sumatra subduction zone: The role of interseismic strain segmentation,” Journal of Geophysical Research, in press, 2009.

Wallace, L. et al., “Characterizing the seismogenic zone of a major plate boundary subduction thrust: Hikurangi Margin, New Zealand”, Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems, 10, Q10006, 2009.

Payne, S. J., McCaffrey, R. and King, R.W. "Strain rates and contemporary deformation in the Snake River Plain and surrounding Basin and Range from GPS and seismicity", Geology, 36, 647-650, 2008.

Galgana, G., Hamburger, M., McCaffrey, R., Corpuz, E. and Chen, Q. "Analysis of crustal deformation in Luzon Island, Philippines using terrain model geodetic observations and focal mechanisms", Tectonophysics, 432, 63-87, 2007.

McCaffrey, R., Qamar, A. I., King, R. W., Wells, R., Khazaradze, G., . Williams, C. A., Stevens, C. W., Vollick, J. J. and Zwick, P. C. "Fault locking, Block Rotation and Crustal Deformation in the Pacific Northwest", Geophysical Journal International, v. 169, p. 1315-1340, doi:10.1111/j.1365-246X.2007.03371.x, 2007.

R. McCaffrey, "Crustal Block Rotations and Plate Coupling in Plate Boundary Zones", S. Stein and J. Freymueller, eds., American Geophysical Union (AGU) Geodynamics Series, 30, 101-122, (2002).

Masturyono, R. McCaffrey, D.A. Wark, S.W. Roecker, Fauzi, G. Ibrahim, and Sukhyar, "Distribution of Magma Beneath Toba Caldera, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Constrained by 3-Dimensional P-Wave Velocities, Seismicity, and Gravity Data," Geochemistry, Geophysics and Geosystems, 2, (2001).

R. McCaffrey, M.D. Long, C. Goldfinger, P. Zwick, J. Nabelek, and C. Smith, "Rotation and Plate Locking at the Southern Cascadia Subduction Zone," Geophysical Research Letters, 27, 3117-3120, (2000).

R. McCaffrey, "Statistical Significance of the Seismic Coupling Coefficient," Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 87, 1069-1073, (1997).

R. McCaffrey and C. Goldfinger, "Forearc Deformation and Great Subduction Earthquakes: Implications for Cascadia Offshore Earthquake Potential," Science, 267, 856-859, (1995).

R. McCaffrey, "Oblique Plate Convergence, Slip Vectors, and Forearc Deformation," Journal of Geophysical Research, 97, 8905-8915, (1992).

R. McCaffrey, G.A. Abers, and P. Zwick, "Inversion of Teleseismic Body Waves," in Digital Seismogram Analysis and Waveform Inversion, ed. W.H.K. Lee, International Association of Seismology and Physics of the Earth's Interior Software Library, 3, 81-166, (1991).

R. McCaffrey, "Teleseismic Investigation of the January 22, 1988 Tennant Creek, Australia, Earthquakes," Geophysical Research Letters, 16, 413-416, (1989).

R. McCaffrey, "Active Tectonics of the Eastern Sunda and Banda Arcs," Journal of Geophysical Research, 93, 15163-15182, (1988).

R. McCaffrey and G. Abers, "SYN3: A Program for Inversion of Teleseismic Body Waveforms on Microcomputers," Air Force Geophysics Laboratory Technical Report, AFGL-TR-0099, Sci. Report 1, 15, (1988).

Contact Information:
Rob McCaffrey
1W08 Science Center
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
110 Eighth Street
Troy, N.Y. 12180-3590 USA
(518) 276-8521



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