My research interests can be broadly defined as the study of active faults, the earthquakes they generate and the physics of the earthquake source. A major objective of my work is to improve our knowledge of earthquake hazards through the application of physics-based understanding of the underlying processes. I have also long been committed to earthquake risk reduction, specifically through the transfer of scientific understanding of the hazard to people, businesses, policymakers and government agencies. Before coming to Stanford in the fall of 2015, I was a research geophysicist at the U. S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California for more than 40 years where I focused on problems of seismicity, seismotectonics, probabilistic earthquake forecasting, and earthquake source processes.

Academic Appointments

Administrative Appointments

  • Geophysicist, U. S. Geological Survey (1971 - 2008)
  • Chief, Branch of Seismology, U. S. Geological Survey (1982 - 1988)
  • Consulting Professor of Geophysics, Stanford University (1992 - 2008)
  • Chief Scientist, Earthquake Hazards Team, U. S. Geological Survey (2002 - 2005)
  • Senior Research Geophysicist, U. S. Geological Survey (2008 - 2015)
  • Professor (Research), Stanford University (2015 - Present)
  • Co-Director, Stanford Center for Induced and Triggered Seismicity, Stanford University (2015 - Present)

Honors & Awards

  • Meritorious Service Award, U. S. Department of the Interior (1990)
  • Gilbert Fellow, U. S. Geological Survey (1993)
  • Fellow, American Geophysical Union (2001)
  • Distinguished Service Award, U. S. Department of the Interior (2010)

Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations

  • President, Seismological Society of America (2007 - 2009)

Professional Education

  • Ph.D, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Geophysics (1978)
  • M. S., Geophysics, Stanford University (1971)
  • B.S., Stanford University, Physics (1971)

2017-18 Courses

Stanford Advisees

All Publications

  • The 2013-2016 Induced Earthquakes in Harper and Sumner Counties, Southern Kansas BULLETIN OF THE SEISMOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA Rubinstein, J. L., Ellsworth, W. L., Dougherty, S. L. 2018; 108 (2): 674–89

    View details for DOI 10.1785/0120170209

    View details for Web of Science ID 000429116300008

  • A Systematic Assessment of the Spatiotemporal Evolution of Fault Activation Through Induced Seismicity in Oklahoma and Southern Kansas JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-SOLID EARTH Schoenball, M., Ellsworth, W. L. 2017; 122 (12): 10189–206
  • Geodetic Slip Model of the 3 September 2016 M-w 5.8 Pawnee, Oklahoma, Earthquake: Evidence for Fault-Zone Collapse SEISMOLOGICAL RESEARCH LETTERS Pollitz, F. F., Wicks, C., Schoenball, M., Ellsworth, W., Murray, M. 2017; 88 (4): 983–93

    View details for DOI 10.1785/0220170002

    View details for Web of Science ID 000417993100006

  • Seismicity During the Initial Stages of the Guy-Greenbrier, Arkansas, Earthquake Sequence Journal of Geophysical Research – Solid Earth Yoon, C. E., Huang, Y., Ellsworth, W. L., Beroza, G. C. 2017

    View details for DOI 10.1002/2017JB014946

  • A new strategy for earthquake focal mechanisms using waveform-correlation-derived relative polarities and cluster analysis: Application to the 2014 Long Valley Caldera earthquake swarm JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-SOLID EARTH Shelly, D. R., Hardebeck, J. L., Ellsworth, W. L., Hill, D. P. 2016; 121 (12): 8622-8641
  • 3-D velocity structure in southern Haiti from local earthquake tomography JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-SOLID EARTH Douilly, R., Ellsworth, W. L., Kissling, E., Freed, A. M., Deschamps, A., de Lepinay, B. M. 2016; 121 (12): 8813-8832
  • Seismic-Hazard Forecast for 2016 Including Induced and Natural Earthquakes in the Central and Eastern United States SEISMOLOGICAL RESEARCH LETTERS Petersen, M. D., Mueller, C. S., Moschetti, M. P., Hoover, S. M., Llenos, A. L., Ellsworth, W. L., Michael, A. J., Rubinstein, J. L., McGarr, A. F., Rukstales, K. S. 2016; 87 (6): 1327-1341

    View details for DOI 10.1785/0220160072

    View details for Web of Science ID 000386892500011

  • Surface uplift and time-dependent seismic hazard due to fluid injection in eastern Texas SCIENCE Shirzaei, M., Ellsworth, W. L., Tiampo, K. F., Gonzalez, P. J., Manga, M. 2016; 353 (6306): 1416-1419


    Observations that unequivocally link seismicity and wastewater injection are scarce. Here we show that wastewater injection in eastern Texas causes uplift, detectable in radar interferometric data up to >8 kilometers from the wells. Using measurements of uplift, reported injection data, and a poroelastic model, we computed the crustal strain and pore pressure. We infer that an increase of >1 megapascal in pore pressure in rocks with low compressibility triggers earthquakes, including the 4.8-moment magnitude event that occurred on 17 May 2012, the largest earthquake recorded in eastern Texas. Seismic activity increased even while injection rates declined, owing to diffusion of pore pressure from earlier periods with higher injection rates. Induced seismicity potential is suppressed where tight confining formations prevent pore pressure from propagating into crystalline basement rocks.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.aag0262

    View details for Web of Science ID 000383708700039

    View details for PubMedID 27708035

  • Stress drop estimates of potentially induced earthquakes in the Guy-Greenbrier sequence JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-SOLID EARTH Huang, Y., Beroza, G. C., Ellsworth, W. L. 2016; 121 (9): 6597-6607
  • Scaling relation between earthquake magnitude and the departure time from P wave similar growth GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS Noda, S., Ellsworth, W. L. 2016; 43 (17): 9053-9060
  • Fluid-faulting evolution in high definition: Connecting fault structure and frequency-magnitude variations during the 2014 Long Valley Caldera, California, earthquake swarm JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-SOLID EARTH Shelly, D. R., Ellsworth, W. L., Hill, D. P. 2016; 121 (3): 1776-1795
  • Geophysics. Coping with earthquakes induced by fluid injection. Science McGarr, A., Bekins, B., Burkardt, N., Dewey, J., Earle, P., Ellsworth, W., Ge, S., Hickman, S., Holland, A., Majer, E., Rubinstein, J., Sheehan, A. 2015; 347 (6224): 830-831

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.aaa0494

    View details for PubMedID 25700505

  • Stress Transfer by the 2008 M-w 6.4 Achaia Earthquake to the Western Corinth Gulf and Its Relation with the 2010 Efpalio Sequence, Central Greece BULLETIN OF THE SEISMOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA Segou, M., Ellsworth, W. L., Parsons, T. 2014; 104 (4): 1723-1734

    View details for DOI 10.1785/0120130142

    View details for Web of Science ID 000343233600011

  • Injection-induced earthquakes. Science Ellsworth, W. L. 2013; 341 (6142): 1225942-?


    Earthquakes in unusual locations have become an important topic of discussion in both North America and Europe, owing to the concern that industrial activity could cause damaging earthquakes. It has long been understood that earthquakes can be induced by impoundment of reservoirs, surface and underground mining, withdrawal of fluids and gas from the subsurface, and injection of fluids into underground formations. Injection-induced earthquakes have, in particular, become a focus of discussion as the application of hydraulic fracturing to tight shale formations is enabling the production of oil and gas from previously unproductive formations. Earthquakes can be induced as part of the process to stimulate the production from tight shale formations, or by disposal of wastewater associated with stimulation and production. Here, I review recent seismic activity that may be associated with industrial activity, with a focus on the disposal of wastewater by injection in deep wells; assess the scientific understanding of induced earthquakes; and discuss the key scientific challenges to be met for assessing this hazard.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1225942

    View details for PubMedID 23846903

  • Optimizing correlation techniques for improved earthquake location BULLETIN OF THE SEISMOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA Schaff, D. P., Bokelmann, G. H., ELLSWORTH, W. L., Zanzerkia, E., Waldhauser, F., Beroza, G. C. 2004; 94 (2): 705-721
  • Apparent break in earthquake scaling due to path and site effects on deep borehole recordings JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-SOLID EARTH Ide, S., Beroza, G. C., Prejean, S. G., ELLSWORTH, W. L. 2003; 108 (B5)
  • Fault structure and kinematics of the Long Valley Caldera region, California, revealed by high-accuracy earthquake hypocenters and focal mechanism stress inversions JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-SOLID EARTH Prejean, S., Ellsworth, W., Zoback, M., Waldhauser, F. 2002; 107 (B12)
  • High-resolution image of Calaveras Fault seismicity JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-SOLID EARTH Schaff, D. P., Bokelmann, G. H., Beroza, G. C., Waldhauser, F., ELLSWORTH, W. L. 2002; 107 (B9)
  • Observations of earthquake source parameters at 2 km depth in the Long Valley caldera, eastern California BULLETIN OF THE SEISMOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA Prejean, S. G., ELLSWORTH, W. L. 2001; 91 (2): 165-177
  • Observation of the seismic nucleation phase in the Ridgecrest, California, earthquake sequence GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS Ellsworth, W. L., Beroza, G. C. 1998; 25 (3): 401-404
  • Detailed observations of California foreshock sequences: Implications for the earthquake initiation process JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-SOLID EARTH Dodge, D. A., Beroza, G. C., ELLSWORTH, W. L. 1996; 101 (B10): 22371-22392
  • Properties of the seismic nucleation phase Symposium on Seismic Source Parameters - From Microearthquakes to Large Events, at the General Assembly of the European-Seismological-Commission Beroza, G. C., ELLSWORTH, W. L. ELSEVIER SCIENCE BV. 1996: 209–27


    Near-source observations show that earthquakes initiate with a distinctive seismic nucleation phase that is characterized by a low rate of moment release relative to the rest of the event. This phase was observed for the 30 earthquakes having moment magnitudes 2.6 to 8.1, and the size and duration of this phase scale with the eventual size of the earthquake. During the nucleation phase, moment release was irregular and appears to have been confined to a limited region of the fault. It was characteristically followed by quadratic growth in the moment rate as rupture began to propagate away from the nucleation zone. These observations suggest that the nucleation process exerts a strong influence on the size of the eventual earthquake.

    View details for Web of Science ID A1995QX85000031

    View details for PubMedID 17792179

  • SEISMICITY REMOTELY TRIGGERED BY THE MAGNITUDE 7.3 LANDERS, CALIFORNIA, EARTHQUAKE SCIENCE Hill, D. P., Reasenberg, P. A., Michael, A., ARABAZ, W. J., Beroza, G., Brumbaugh, D., Brune, J. N., Castro, R., Davis, S., dePolo, D., ELLSWORTH, W. L., Gomberg, J., Harmsen, S., House, L., Jackson, S. M., Johnston, M. J., Jones, L., Keller, R., Malone, S., Munguia, L., Nava, S., Pechmann, J. C., Sanford, A., SIMPSON, R. W., SMITH, R. B., Stark, M., Stickney, M., Vidal, A., Walter, S., Wong, V., ZOLLWEG, J. 1993; 260 (5114): 1617-1623


    The magnitude 7.3 Landers earthquake of 28 June 1992 triggered a remarkably sudden and widespread increase in earthquake activity across much of the western United States. The triggered earthquakes, which occurred at distances up to 1250 kilometers (17 source dimensions) from the Landers mainshock, were confined to areas of persistent seismicity and strike-slip to normal faulting. Many of the triggered areas also are sites of geothermal and recent volcanic activity. Static stress changes calculated for elastic models of the earthquake appear to be too small to have caused the triggering. The most promising explanations involve nonlinear interactions between large dynamic strains accompanying seismic waves from the mainshock and crustal fluids (perhaps including crustal magma).

    View details for Web of Science ID A1993LG17600020

    View details for PubMedID 17810202