Earthquake Physics - Sylvain Barbot


The goal of this research is to develop a physics-based model of the earthquake cycle to assess the full range of seismic behavior that can be expected across a plate boundary.

This team uses remote sensing (synthetic aperture radar, GPS, optical photographs, gravity) and seismological data to investigate the mechanics the lithosphere and fault slip. These measurements can be used to constrain models of rupture and lithosphere dynamics, which include faulting, but also more distributed deformation, such as poroelastic rebound and viscoelastic flow. An important goal is to reconcile long-term (regional tectonics) and short-term (earthquake dynamics) observations and improve our capacity to predict some aspect of the earthquake cycle.

Example of a dynamic model consisting of a fault obeying rate-and-state friction with characteristics tuned to the wealth of seismological and geodetic data available on the Parkfield segment of the San Andreas Fault:

Credits: Barbot S., N. Lapusta and J.-P. Avouac, "Under the Hood of the Earthquake Machine: Toward Predictive Modeling of the Seismic Cycle", Science, 2012.

Latest Projects

The Megathrust Dynamics Symposium, part of the 14th International Conference on Fracture, will take place on Rhodes, Greece, in June 18-23, 2017. The symposium will gather experts in various aspects of faulting and earthquake mechanics to discuss...

Sylvain Barbot's group is researching the role of water in the movement of Earth's tectonic plates.

Illustration of waveglider motion

Barbot's team is developing geophysical marine robots to probe the deformation of the seafloor. The end goal is to extend geodetic measurements offshore to better understand earthquakes, tectonic processes and tsunami hazards.

The goal of this project is to explore the dynamics of the earthquake cycle and of the deformation of the lithosphere to better inform seismic hazard assessment.

The goal of this research is to build a much improved understanding of seismic hazard in Sumatra using physical models of fault behaviour tuned to geophysical, geological and laboratory observations.

The goal of this research is to mitigate natural hazards due to the seismic cycle using physical models of fault slip evolution derived from physical laws, modern geophysical data, and geological analysis.