Earth and Environmental Sciences Faculty

Alan L. Kafka

Associate Professor

Director of Weston Observatory


I study earthquakes, seismic waves, and Earth processes in many parts of the world, and have long been obsessed with the enigma of why earthquakes occur in the Eastern United States (EUS), deep in the interior of the North American plate. Research on the cause of EUS earthquakes has led me into the realm of exploring whether there might be patterns in seismicity that could yield clues to the mystery of whether it will ever be possible to predict earthquakes. As part of that exploration, I developed the method of “Cellular Seismology” (CS) to investigate the extent to which locations of past earthquakes delineate zones within which future large earthquakes are likely to occur. A recent development in this research is that my students and I are now applying a modified variation of CS to explore human-induced earthquakes associated with hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) and with the construction of large reservoirs.

The research described above informs my interest in how earthquakes interact with humans and the environment. Earthquakes and their effects on society highlight our evolving environmental consciousness because they teach us humility in the face of the power of nature. Humanity has made amazing progress in creating a built environment and infrastructure to support the needs of society. But when significant earthquakes happen they can damage – and sometimes destroy – some of our greatest human-built structures. My research and teaching are based on my belief that there are things we can do to mitigate the harmful effects of earthquakes. Through advances in earthquake science and improved science education, we can make our lives less vulnerable to earthquake hazards and other natural hazards that threaten society. (Alan Kafka blogs at, and can also be followed at


Current Graduate and Undergraduate Students and Projects

  • Kasey Cannon (PhD): Cellular Seismology Exploration of Locations of Past and Future Earthquakes: A Versitile Tool for Seismology Research, Education, and Community Science

Recent M.S. and B.S. Alumni Projects

  • Megan Sharkey (Environmental Studies Major): Potential Human Health Effects of Infrasound from Electricity-Generating Wind Turbines at a Site in Antrim, NH
  • Hannah Chambless: Cellular Seismology Predictability as a Measure of Association Between Wastewater Injection Wells and Earthquakes in Oklahoma, M.S. Thesis, 2018.
  • Eric Fisher: Cellular Seismology Analysis of the Western United States: Comparing and Contrasting the San Andreas Fault Zone, Cascadia Subduction Zone, and the Western Intraplate Hinterland Region, M.S. Thesis, 2017.


Selected Publications