Goran Ekstrom

Columbia University

Primary Section: 16, Geophysics
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2019)


Göran Ekström is a geophysicist recognized for his seismological investigations of heterogeneous elastic structure in the Earth's deep interior, and for discoveries and understanding coming from the interpretation of seismic signals generated by earthquakes, volcanoes, glacier calving, landslides, and underground nuclear explosions.

Ekström was born and grew up outside Stockholm, Sweden. He graduated from Swarthmore College in 1981 with a degree in physics and did postbaccalaureate work in seismology at Moscow State University, USSR. He graduated from Harvard University in 1987 with a Ph.D. in geophysics. After postdoctoral work at Columbia University, he joined the faculty at Harvard in 1990 as professor of geology and geophysics. In 2006 Ekström moved to Columbia University where he is professor of Earth and environmental sciences. His teaching includes environmental hazards and risk assessment. Ekström has served as chair of the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, the EarthScope Steering Committee, the International Federation of Digital Seismographic Networks, and the International Seismological Centre executive committee. In 2015 he was awarded the Beno Gutenberg Medal by the European Geophysical Union for his outstanding contributions to seismology.

Research Interests

Göran Ekström is interested in the use of detailed and quantitative analysis of seismic signals to describe and constrain the physical processes active in short-lived geological phenomena. Systematic analysis of global earthquake activity provides the longitudinal database from which inferences can be made about fault behavior, earthquake recurrence, and seismic hazard. Maintaining, improving, and extending the global catalog of earthquake focal mechanisms is central to Ekström's research agenda. Using seismic-wavefield back-propagation methods, Ekström and coworkers have detected and geographically located a variety of unusual seismic sources associated with mass wasting, glaciers, and volcano caldera collapses. Improved detection and location of these sources, and potentially of new types of events, require improved utilization of existing data, and more sophisticated prediction of seismic wave propagation through the heterogeneous Earth. New and better knowledge about the occurrence and character of these seismic sources leads to new constraints on the underlying processes, and allow new multidisciplinary research questions to be posed and investigated. For example, How does the disappearance of mountain glaciers in a warming climate influence the frequency and character of catastrophic landslides?

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