Abstract: Since ancient times, people have been drawn to systematic structure and regularities of natural phenomena and sought to explain what may be causing observed regular patterns. These include spatial patterns such as hexagonal shapes in dry ponds as well as temporal weather patterns. Understanding temporal patterns has the obvious benefit of being better able to forecast what may happen in the future and thus helps us to prepare for pending hazardous storms and floods, for example. Some temporal behavior is more elusive, such as earthquake occurrence and most researchers believe they are simply not predictable. While we learn increasingly more about how large and how often major earthquakes occur for the different regions around the world, we are unable to say exactly when they happen. Still, earthquake occurrence does not appear to be completely random and increasing number of studies are showing temporal correlations between earthquakes and natural variations such as earth tides or major climate patterns, although the reported correlation is usually weak. In this lecture, I will focus on the surprising observation that major earthquakes in south Iceland preferentially occur in summer. I will discuss what seasonal changes are most prominent in the area and how they may modify conditions at depth in the crust at depths where earthquakes occur.
Bio: Prof. Sigurjón Jónsson grew up among volcanoes and earthquakes in northern Iceland and went on to study Geophysics at the University of Iceland, from where he received both a bachelors and a masters degree in the subject. He earned his doctoral degree in Geophysics and a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 2002. After graduation, Prof. Jónsson was a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University and a senior researcher and lecturer at the Institute of Geophysics, ETH Zurich, Switzerland. From 2009 he has been with the ErSE program at KAUST, first as Associate Professor of Geophysics and since 2016 as Professor. During his career, he has been interested in volcanic and seismic processes, and used crustal deformation observations (satellite radar interferometric imaging in particular) to gain insight into the subsurface activity. At KAUST, Prof. Jónsson leads the crustal deformation and InSAR research group (http://cdi.kaust.edu.sa).