Dr. Harold Tobin

by George Zamora

SOCORRO, N.M., March 11, 2005 – Harold J. Tobin, associate professor of geophysics and research geophysicist at New Mexico Tech, recently was named a 2005-2006 Joint Oceanographic Institutions (JOI)/U.S. Science Support Program (USSSP) Distinguished Lecturer.

In his capacity as a JOI/USSSP Distinguished Lecturer, Tobin will present “Getting Inside the Plate Boundary: Subduction Zone Megathrusts in the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP)” at various venues throughout the year, which will include U.S. colleges, universities, and non-profit organizations.

“The Sumatra earthquake and tsunami this past December were stark reminders of the hazards of subduction zone earthquakes,” Tobin relates.

“Earthquakes at plate boundaries are of intense societal interest,” Tobin says, “yet the fundamental processes that govern their frequency, size, duration, and effects remain poorly understood.”

“Our understanding of the mechanics and dynamics of plate boundary faulting is limited by a lack of information on properties and ambient conditions within active faults at actual depths,” he adds.

In order to better understand the stresses and strains inside the fault zone associated with plate boundary earthquakes, Tobin and other scientists from throughout the world will soon embark on a planned Nankai Trough Seismogenic Zone Experiment (NanTroSEIZE), a scientific ocean drilling project scheduled to get started at the end of next year at an offshore site near southwest Japan.

“NanTroSEIZE is something that is just now falling into place, but it will become the biggest scientific ocean drilling project ever undertaken,” says Tobin. “It is a strongly international effort, which will take up to a decade to complete at a cost of about $100 million.”

Tobin will be the Co-Chief Project Scientist for NanTroSEIZE and will share duties in that post with Masa Kimoshita from the Japan Marine Science and Technology Center.

Tobin has been shipboard scientist on five Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) expeditions to the Cascadia, Barbados, Costa Rica, and the Nankai Trough convergent margins. He also was an Ocean Drilling Fellow during Leg 146 of the ODP, as well as a member of the program’s Science Steering and Evaluation Panel, and currently serves on the U.S. Science oversight and advisory committee for scientific drilling in the world’s oceans.

Tobin has been teaching and conducting research at New Mexico Tech since 1997.

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