Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Justin Rubinstein

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

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

Research:

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).

Science and Products