Justin Rubinstein


Current Position: Research Geophysicist and Deputy Chief of the USGS Induced Seismicity Project


Stanford University, Ph.D. Geophysics, 2006, M.S. Geophysics 2002
UCLA, B.S. (cum laude)  Applied Geophysics, 2000


Focus Areas:

My current research is focused on the following aspects of induced earthquakes

  • Observation and Physical Interpretation of Induced Earthquakes
  • Computing Earthquake Hazard for Induced Earthquakes
  • Ground Motion in Induced Earthquakes

My earlier research covered many topics including

  • Earthquake Recurrence and Prediction
  • Earthquake Location Methods
  • Repeating Earthquakes
  • Time Dependent Earth Properties 
  • Tectonic Tremor
  • Nonlinear Site Response




My current work is examining earthquakes that are potentially related to human activities, with a specific focus on earthquakes and their relationship to wastewater disposal activities associated with oil and gas production.

I am currently analyzing the recent increase in seismicity seen in southern Kansas. This an area of active oil and gas development known as the Mississippi Lime play. The USGS Induced Seismicity Project, with the Geological Hazards Science Center, has deployed a network of 14 seismometers in the area to monitor seismicity. We are actively collaborating with scientists and regulators at the Kansas Geological Survey, the Kansas Corporation Commission, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and the Oklahoma Geological Survey to understand these earthquakes.

I am also involved in a larger effort to compute the earthquake hazard related to induced and potentially induced earthquakes. Computing the hazard from induced earthquakes is a new challenge for earthquake scientists because they behave differently than natural earthquakes. To compute the hazard from these earthquakes requires methods that can handle rapid changes in earthquake rates and seismically active regions. We have developed preliminary methods that address these new complexities, which estimate the hazard over shorter time periods and use very recent earthquake data to predict future earthquake behavior. It is probable that having additional industrial information that shows the changing operational parameters and expansion and contraction of oil and gas fields would help us more accurately describe the hazard from induced seismicity. For more information on computing the hazard from induced earthquakes see: Computing Hazard From Induced Earthquakesand a preliminary report by Petersen et al. (2014).

I have recently investigated the large increase seismicity in the Raton Basin (CO and NM) experienced  since 2001. This earthquake sequence has included an M5.0 and M5.3. My work shows that these earthquakes are induced by wastewater disposal related the production of coal-bed methane in the area. For more information seeRubinstein et al (2014) and Barnhart et al. (2014).





Petersen, M.D., et al. (2015), Incorporating induced seismicity in the 2014 United States National Seismic Hazard Model -- Results of 2014 workshop and sensitivity studiesUS Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015-1070, 69pp, doi:10.3133/ofr20151070. [Link]

Ellsworth, et al. (2015) Increasing seismicity in the U.S. midcontinent: Implications for earthquake hazardThe Leading Edge, pp. 618-626, doi:10.1190/tle34060618.1. [Download File]

McNamara, D.E., J.L. Rubinstein, et al. (2015), Efforts to monitor and characterize the recent increasing seismicity in central Oklahoma, The Leading Edge, pp. 628-639, doi: 10.1190/tle34060628.1[Download File]

McGarr, A, et al., (2015), Coping with earthquakes induced by fluid injectionScience, 347 (6224), pp. 830-831, doi: 10.1126/science.aaa0494 [Download File]

Chen, K.H., T. Furumura, and J. Rubinstein (2015), Near-surface versus fault zone damage following the 1999 Chi-Chi earthquake: Observation and simulation of repeating earthquakesJ. Geophy. Res., 120, 2426-2445, doi: 10.1002/2014JB011719. [Download File]

Rubinstein, J.L. and A.B. Mahani (2015), Myths and Facts on Wastewater Injection, Hydraulic Fracutring, Enhanced Oil Recovery, and Induced SeismicitySeismological Research Letters, doi:10.1785/0220150067. [Download File]

Eaton, D.W. and J.L. Rubinstein (2015), Preface to the Focus Section on Injection-Induced SeismicitySeismological Research Letters, doi:10.1785/0220150093. [Download File]

Weingarten, M., et al (2015), High-rate injection is associated with the increase in U.S. mid-continent seismicityScience, 348(6241), pp. 1336-1340. [Download File]

Barnhart, W.D., H.M. Benz, G.P. Hayes, J.L. Rubinstein, E. Bergman (2014), Seismological and geodetic constraints on the 2011 Mw 5.3 Trinidad, Colorado earthquake and induced deformation in the Raton BasinJ. Geophys. Res., 119, doi: 10.1002/2014JB011227. [Link]

Rubinstein, J. L., Ellsworth, William L.; McGarr, Arthur F.; Benz, Harley M., (2014). The 2001-present induced earthquake sequence in the Raton Basin of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 104(5), pp. 2162-2181, doi:10.1785/0120140009. [Download File]

Pollitz, F. F., J. Rubinstein, and W.L. Ellsworth (2012), Source Characterization of Near-Surface Chemical Explosions at SAFOD, Bull. Seism. Soc. Am., 102(4), 1348-1360, doi: 10.1785/0120110201.[Download File]

Hough, S.E. (2015), Shaking intensity from injection-induced versus tectonic earthquakes in the central-eastern United States, The Leading Edge, pp/ 690-697, doi: 10.1190/tle34060690.1 [Download File]

Rubinstein, J.L. and W.L. Ellsworth, Variable Loading Rates and Fault Strengths Make Some Repeating Earthquakes Obey the Slip-Predictable Model, manuscript in preparation for GRL.

Pollitz, F.F., W.L. Ellsworth, and J. L. Rubinstein, Interpretation of S waves generated by near-surface chemical explosions at SAFOD, manuscript in preparation for BSSA.

Lay, T., Y. Fujii, E. Geis, K. Koketsu, J. Rubinstein, T. Sagiya, and M. Simons (2013), Introduction to the Special Issue on the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and TsunamiBulletin of the Seismological Society of America, v. 103, pp. 1165-1170, doi: 10.1785/0120130001

Rubinstein, J.L., W.L. Ellsworth, K.H. Chen, and N. Uchida (2012), The Time and Slip-Predictable Models Cannot be Dependably Used to Predict Earthquake Behavior 1: Repeating EarthquakesJGR, v. 117, B02306, doi:10.1029/2011JB008724.

Rubinstein, J.L., W.L. Ellsworth, N. Beeler, B.D. Kilgore, D. Lockner, and H. Savage (2012), The Time- and Slip-Predictable Models Cannot be Dependably Used to Predict Earthquake Behavior 2: Laboratory EarthquakesJGR , v. 117, B02307, doi:10.1029/2011JB008723.  

Chen, K.H., T. Furumura, J.L. Rubinstein, and R-J Rau (2011), Observations of Changes in Waveform Character Induced by the 1999 Mw 7.6 Chi-Chi Earthquake GRL v. 38, L23302, doi:10.1029/2011GL049841.  

Rubinstein, J.L. (2011), Nonlinear Site Response in Medium Magnitude Earthquakes Near Parkfield, CABSSA, vol 101, pp. 275 - 286, doi: 10.1785/0120090396.

Rubinstein, J.L. and W.L. Ellsworth (2010), Precise Estimation of Repeating Earthquake Moment: Example from Parkfield CaliforniaBSSA, vol. 100, pp. 1952-1961, doi: 10.1785/0120100007.

Gomberg, J. and the Cascadia 2007 and Beyond Working Group (2010), Slow-slip phenomena in Cascadia from 2007 and beyond: A reviewGSA Bulletin, v. 122, 963-978, doi: 10.1130/B30287

Rubinstein, J.L., D.R. Shelly, and W.L. Ellsworth (2010), Non-Volcanic Tremor: A Window into the Roots of Fault Zone, in New Frontiers in Integrated Solid Earth Sciences, edited by S. Cloetingh and J. Negendank, pp. 287-314, Springer Netherlands.

Rubinstein, J.L., J. Gomberg, J.E. Vidale, A.G. Wech, H. Kao, K.C. Creager, G. Rogers (2009), Seismic Wave Triggering of Non-Volcanic Tremor, ETS, and Earthquakes on Vancouver Island, JGR, vol. 114, B00A01, doi:10.1029/2008JB005875.

Peng, Z., J.E. Vidale., K.C. Creager, J.L. Rubinstein , J. Gomberg, and P.Bodin (2008), Strong tremor near Parkfield, CA excited by the 2002 Denali earthqauke GRL , vol. 35, L23305, doi:10.1029/2008GL036080.

Rubinstein, J.L. , M. La Rocca, J.E. Vidale, K.C. Creager, A.G. Wech (2008), Tidal Modulation of Non-Volcanic TremorScience, v319, pp. 186-189.

J. Gomberg, J.L. Rubinstein, Z. Peng, K.C. Creager, J.E. Vidale (2008), Widespread Triggering of Non-Volcanic Tremor in California, Science, v. 319, pp. 173.

Rubinstein, J.L., J.E. Vidale, J. Gomberg, P. Bodin, K.C. Creager, S. Malone (2007), Non-Volcanic Tremor Driven by Large Transient Shear StressesNature , vol 448, pp 579-582.

Rubinstein, J.L., N. Uchida, and G.C. Beroza (2007), Seismic Velocity Reductions Caused by the 2003 Tokachi-Oki Earthquake,JGR, vol 112, B05315, doi:10.1029/2006JB004440.

Rubinstein, J.L. and G.C. Beroza (2007), Full Waveform Earthquake Location: Application to Seismic Streaks on the Calaveras Fault, California JGR, vol. 112, B05303, doi:10.1029/2006B004463.

Rubinstein, J. L. and G. C. Beroza (2005), Depth Constraints on Nonlinear Strong Ground Motion from the 2004 Parkfield EarthquakeGRL, vol. 32, L14313, doi: 10.1029/2005GL023189..

Rubinstein, J. L. and G. C. Beroza (2004), Nonlinear Strong Ground Motion in the Ml5.4 Chittenden Earthquake: Evidence that Preexisting Damage Increases Susceptibility to Further DamageGRL, v. 31, L23614, doi: 10.1029/2004GL021357.

Rubinstein, J. L. and G. C. Beroza (2004), Evidence for Widespread Nonlinear Strong Ground Motion in the Mw6.9 Loma Prieta Earthquake , BSSA, Vol. 94, No. 5, pp. 1595–1608.

Hooper, A., P. Segall, K. Johnson, and J. L. Rubinstein (2002).  Reconciling Seismic and Geodetic Models of the 1989 Kilauea South Flank EarthquakeGRL, v. 29, no. 22, doi: 10.1029/2002GL016156.

Baher, S., P. Davis, G. Fuis, J. L. Rubinstein, M. Kohler, S. Persh, and A. Provost (2002).  Earthquake Data Report for LARSE II:  High Resolution Survey, Santa Monica, California, U.S. Geological Survey Open File Report.

Davis, P., J. L. Rubinstein, K. Liu, S. Gao, and L. Knopoff (2000).  Northridge Earthquake Damage Caused by Geologic Focusing of Seismic WavesScience, v 289. no. 5485, pp. 1746-1750.