Rich Briggs

My work focuses on the geology and seismotectonics of large earthquakes, with the goal of understanding how, where, and why they happen.  


Research Focus

I characterize active faults for seismic hazard analysis. This requires grappling with structures and processes that control earthquakes. I also work with the USGS National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) to respond to large earthquakes by conducting rapid field studies and analyzing remote sensing products.

Professional Preparation

BS, Geologic and Environmental Science, Stanford University, 1999
PhD, Geology, Center for Neotectonic Studies, University of Nevada, Reno, 2004
Postdoctoral Scholar, Tectonics Observatory, California Institute of Technology, 2005-2008

Professional Experience

Research Geologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Golden, CO, 2008-present
Geologist, Synergetics Incorporated, Fort Collins, CO (contracted to USGS), 2008




Levandowski, W., Zellman, M., and Briggs, R., 2017, Gravitational body forces focus North American intraplate earthquakes: Nature Communications, v. 8, p. 14314, doi:10.1038/ncomms14314

Hayes, G.P., Myers, E.K., Dewey, J.W., Briggs, R.W., Earle, P.S., Benz, H.M., Smoczyk, G.M., Flamme, H.E., Barnhart, W.D., Gold, R.D., and Furlong, K.P., 2017, Tectonic summaries of magnitude 7 and greater earthquakes from 2000 to 2015: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016–1192, 148 p.,

Barnhart, W.D., Murray, J.R., Briggs, R.W., Gomez, F., Miles, C.P.J., Svarc, J., Riquelme, S., and Stressler, B.J., 2016, Coseismic slip and early afterslip of the 2015 Illapel, Chile, earthquake: Implications for frictional heterogeneity and coastal uplift: Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, v. 121, no. 8, p. 6172-6191.

Wesnousky, S.G., Briggs, R.W., Caffee, M.W., Ryerson, F.J., Finkel, R.C., and Owen, L.A., 2016, Terrestrial cosmogenic surface exposure dating of glacial and associated landforms in the Ruby Mountains-East Humboldt Range of central Nevada and along the northeastern flank of the Sierra Nevada: Geomorphology, v. 268, p. 72-81.

Briggs, R., 2016, Earthquakes: Megathrusts and mountain building: Nature Geosci, v. 9, no. 5, p. 346-348.

Witter, R., Carver, G.A.Briggs, R., Gelfenbaum, G., Koehler, R., La Selle, S., Bender, A., Engelhart, S., Hemphill-Haley, E., Hill, T., 2015, Unusually large tsunamis frequent a currently creeping part of the Aleutian megathrust. Geophysical Research Letters,43, 76–84, doi:10.1002/2015GL066083

Levandowski, W., Boyd, O., Briggs, R., Gold, R, 2015, A random-walk algorithm for modeling lithospheric density and the role of body forces in the evolution of the Midcontinent Rift. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 16, 4084–4107, doi:10.1002/2015GC005961.

Gagan, M.K., Sosdian, S.M., Scott-Gagan, H., Hantoro, W.S., Natawidjaja, D.H., Suwargadi, B.W., Briggs, R.W., and H. Rifai, 2015, Coral 13C/12C records of vertical seafloor displacement during megathrust earthquakes west of Sumatra. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 432, pp. 461-471, doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2015.10.002.

Hayes, G.P., Briggs, R.W., Barnhart, W.D., Yeck, W.L., McNamara, D.E., Wald, D.J., Nealy, J.L., Benz, H.M., Gold, R.D., Jaiswal, K.S., Marano, K., Earle, P.S., Hearne, M.G., Smoczyk, G.M., Wald, L.A., and S.V. Samsonov, 2015, Characterization of the 2015 Mw 7.8 Nepal (Gorkha) Earthquake Sequence and its Seismotectonic Context. Seismological Research Letters, v. 86, p. 1557-1567, doi:10.1785/0220150145.

McNamara, D., Hayes, G.P., Benz, H., Williams, R., McMahon, N., Aster, R. Sickbert, T., Herrmann, R., Briggs, R., Smoczyk, G., Bergman, E., and P. Earle, 2015. Reactivated faulting near Cushing Oklahoma: increased potential for a triggered earthquake in an area of United States strategic infrastructure. Geophysical Research Letters, v. 42, 8328–8332, doi:10.1002/2015GL064669.

Gold, R.D., Reitman, N.G., Briggs, R.W., Barnhart, W.D., Hayes, G., and E. Wilson, 2015. On- and off-fault deformation associated with the September 2013 Mw7.7 Balochistan earthquake: implications for geologic slip rate measurements. Tectonophysics.doi:10.1016/j.tecto.2015.08.019

Nelson, A.R., Briggs, R., Dura, T., Engelhart, S., Gelfenbaum, G., Bradley, L., Forman, S.L., C.H. Vane, and Kelley, K.A., 2015. Tsunami recurrence in the eastern Alaska-Aleutian arc: A Holocene stratigraphic record from Chirikof Island, Alaska. Geosphere, v. 11, no. 4, 1–32, doi:10.1130/GES01108.1

Reitman, N.G., Bennett, S.E.K., Gold, R.D., Briggs, R.W., and DuRoss, C.B., 2015.  High resolution trench photomosaics from image-based modeling: workflow and error analysis. In press, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

Meltzner, A.J., K. Sieh, H.-W. Chiang, C.-C. Wu, L.L.H. Tsang, C.-C. Shen, E.M. Hill, B.W. Suwargadi, D.H. Natawidjaja, B. Philibosian, and R.W. Briggs, 2015.Time-varying interseismic strain rates and similar seismic ruptures on the Nias–Simeulue patch of the Sunda megathrust, Quaternary Science Reviews 122, 258-281, doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2015.06.003

Barnhart, W. D., R. W. Briggs, N. G. Reitman, R. D. Gold, and G. P. Hayes, 2015. Evidence for slip partitioning and bimodal slip behavior on a single fault: Surface slip characteristics of the 2013 Mw7.7 Balochistan, Pakistan earthquake, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 420 (0), 1-11.

Kelsey, H. M., R. C. Witter, S. E. Engelhart, R. Briggs, A. Nelson, P. Haeussler, and D. R. Corbett, 2015. Beach ridges as paleoseismic indicators of abrupt coastal subsidence during subduction zone earthquakes, and implications for Alaska-Aleutian subduction zone paleoseismology, southeast coast of the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, Quaternary Science Reviews, 113 (0), 147-158.

Mueller, C. S., R. W. Briggs, R. L. Wesson, and M. D. Petersen, 2015. Updating the USGS seismic hazard maps for Alaska, Quaternary Science Reviews, 113 (0), 39-47.

Personius, S.F., Briggs, R.W., Nelson, A.R., Schermer, E.R., Maharrey, J.Z., Sherrod, B.L., Spaulding, S.A., and L. Bradley, 2014. Holocene earthquakes and right-lateral slip on the left-lateral Darrington-Devils Mountain fault zone, northern Puget Sound, Washington. Geosphere.

Barnhart, W.D., Hayes, G., Briggs, R., Gold, R., and R. Bilham, 2014. Ball-and-socket tectonic rotations during the 2013 Mw 7.7 Balochistan earthquake. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 403 (0), 210-216.

Gold, R. D., R. W. Briggs, S. F. Personius, A. J. Crone, S. A. Mahan, and S. J. Angster, 2014. Latest Quaternary paleoseismology and evidence of distributed dextral shear along the Mohawk Valley fault zone, northern Walker Lane, California, Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 2014JB010987.

Briggs, R. W., S. E. Engelhart, A. R. Nelson, T. Dura, A. C. Kemp, P. J. Haeussler, D. Reide Corbett, S. J. Angster, and L.-A. Bradley, 2014. Uplift and subsidence reveal a non-persistent megathrust rupture boundary (Sitkinak Island, Alaska), Geophysical Research Letters, 2014GL059380. 

Witter, R. C., R. W. Briggs, S. E. Engelhart, G. Gelfenbaum, R. D. Koehler, and W. D. Barnhart, 2014. Little late Holocene strain accumulation and release on the Aleutian megathrust below the Shumagin Islands, Alaska, Geophysical Research Letters, 2014GL059393.

Briggs, R.W., Wesnsousky, S.G., Brune, J.N., Purvance, M.D., and S.A. Mahan, 2013.  Low footwall accelerations and variable surface rupture behavior on the Fort Sage Mountains fault, northeast California.  Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, Vol 103, No. 1, pp.157-168.

Gold, R.D., Stephenson, W. J., Odum, J. K., Briggs, R. W., Crone, A. J., and Angster, S. J., 2013. Concealed Quaternary strike-slip fault resolved with airborne LiDAR and seismic reflection: The Grizzly Valley fault system, northern Walker Lane, California. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. doi: 10.1002/jgrb.50238.

Gold, R., dePolo, C., Briggs, R., Crone, A., and J. Gosse, 2013.  Late Quaternary slip-rate variations along the Warm Springs Valley Fault System, northern Walker Lane, California-Nevada border.  Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, Vol 103, No. 1, pp.542-558.

Kemp, A.C., Engelhart, S.E., Culver, S.J., Nelson, A.R., Briggs, R.W. and Haeussler, P.J., 2013.  Modern salt-marsh and tidal-flat foraminifera from Sitkinak and Simeonof Islands, southwestern Alaska.  Journal of Foraminiferal Research 43, Pg 83-94.

Meltzner, A.J., K. Sieh, H.-W. Chiang, C.-C. Shen, B.W. Suwargadi, D.H. Natawidjaja, B. Philibosian, and R.W. Briggs, 2012.  Persistent termini of 2004- and 2005-like ruptures of the Sunda megathrust,  J. Geophys. Res., 117, B04405, doi:10.1029/2011JB008888.

DuRoss, C.B., Personius, S.F., Crone, A.J., McDonald, G.N. and R.W. Briggs, 2012. Late Holocene earthquake history of the Brigham City segment of the Wasatch fault zone at the Hansen Canyon, Kotter Canyon, and Pearsons Canyon trench sites, Box Elder County, Utah: Utah Geological Survey Special Study 142, 62 p., 3 plates, CD.

Hayes, G.P., Earle, P.S., Benz, H.M., Wald, D.J., Briggs, R.W., and the USGS/NEIC Earthquake Response Team, 2011. 88 Hours: The U.S. Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center response to the 11 March 2011 Mw 9.0 Tohoku earthquake, Seis. Res. Lett. 82(4), 481-493.

Wei, S., Fielding, E.J., Leprince, S., Sladen, A., Avouac, J.-P., Helmberger, D.V., Hauksson, E., Chu, R., Simons, M., Hudnut, K.W., Herring, T. & Briggs, R.W., 2011. Superficial simplicity of the 2010 El Mayor–Cucapah earthquake of Baja California in Mexico, Nature Geoscience, 4, 615-618.

Hayes, G.P., Briggs, R.W., Sladen, A., Fielding, A.J., Prentice, C., Hudnut, K., Mann, P., Taylor, F.W., Crone, A.J., Gold, R., Ito, T., and M. Simons, 2010.Complex rupture during the 12 January 2010 Haiti earthquake. Nature Geoscience, doi:10.1038/ngeo977.

Prentice, C.S., Mann, P., Crone, A.J., Gold, R.D., Hudnut, K.W., Briggs, R.W., Koehler, R.D., and P. Jean, 2010. Seismic hazard of the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault in Haiti inferred from palaeoseismology. Nature Geoscience, doi:10.1038/ngeo991.

Hornbach, M.J., Braudy, N., Briggs, R.W., Cormier, M-H., Davis, M.B., Diebold, J.B., Dieudonne, N., Douilly, R., Frohlich, C., Gulick, S.P.S., Johnson III, H.E., Mann, P., McHugh, C., Ryan-Mishkin, K., Prentice, C.S., Seeber, L., Sorlien, C.C., Steckler, M.S., Steeve, J.S., Taylor, F.W., and J. Templeton, 2010. High tsunami frequency as a result of combined strike-slip faulting and coastal landslides. Nature Geoscience, doi:10.1038/ngeo975.

Meltzner, A. J., K. Sieh, H.-W. Chiang, C.-C. Shen, B. W. Suwargadi, D. H. Natawidjaja, B. E. Philibosian, R. W. Briggs, and J. Galetzka, 2010. Coral evidence for earthquake recurrence and an A.D. 1390-1455 cluster at the south end of the 2004 Aceh-Andaman rupture. Journal of Geophysical Research (Solid Earth), Vol. 115, B10402, doi:10.1029/2010JB007499.

Briggs, R.W., Sieh, K., Amidon, W.H., Galetzka, J., Prayudi, D., Suprihanto, I., Sastra, N., Suwargadi, B., Natawidjaja, D., and Farr, T., 2008. Persistent elastic behavior above a megathrust rupture patch: Nias island, West Sumatra. Journal of Geophysical Research (Solid Earth), Vol. 113, B12406, doi:10.1029/2008JB005684.

Taylor, F.W., Briggs, R.W., Frohlich, C., Brown, A., Hornbach, M., Papabatu, A.K., Meltzner, A.J., and Billy, D., 2008. Rupture across arc segment boundaries in the 1 April 2007 Solomons Earthquake. Nature Geoscience. Vol. 1, pp 253-257.

Turner, R., Koehler, R., Briggs, R.W., and S. G. Wesnousky, 2008. Paleoseismic and slip-rate observations along the Honey Lake fault zone, Northeastern California, USA. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, Vol. 98, No. 4, 1730-1736.

Adams, K.D., Goebel, T., Graf, K., Smith, G.M., Camp, A.J., Briggs, R.W., and Rhode, D., 2008. Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene Lake-Level fluctuations in the Lahontan Basin, Nevada: Implications for the Distribution of Archaeological Sites. Geoarchaeology, Vol. 23, No.5, 608-643.

Briggs, R.W., Sieh, K., Meltzner, A.J., Natawidjaja, D., Galetzka, J., Suwargadi, B., Hsu, Y., Simons, M., Hananto, N., Suprihanto, I., Prayudi, D., Avouac, J.P., Prawirodirdjo, L. and Y. Bock, 2006. Deformation and slip along the Sunda megathrust in the great 2005 Nias-Simeulue earthquake. Science. vol. 311, no. 5769, pp. 1897-1901.

Konca, A.O., Hjorleifsdottir, V., Song, T.A., Avouac, J.P., Helmberger, D.V., Chen Ji, Sieh, K., Briggs, R., Meltzner, A., 2007. Rupture kinematics of the 2005 Mw 8.6 Nias-Simeulue Earthquake from joint inversion of seismic and geodetic data. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. Vol. 97, No. 1A, pp. 307-322.

Kumar, S., Wesnousky, S.G., Rockwell, T.K., Briggs, R.W., Thakur, V.C., and R. Jayangondaperumal, 2006. Paleoseismic evidence of great surface-rupture earthquakes along the Indian Himalaya. Journal of Geophysical Research (Solid Earth), Vol. 111, No. B3, B03304, doi:10.1029/2004JB003309.

Briggs, R.W., Wesnousky S.G., and K.D. Adams, 2005. Late Pleistocene and late Holocene lake highstands in the Pyramid Lake subbasin of Lake Lahontan, Nevada, USA. Quaternary Research, 64 (2): 257-263.

Briggs, R.W. and S.G. Wesnousky, 2005. Late Pleistocene and Holocene paleoearthquake activity of the Olinghouse fault zone, Nevada. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 95 (4): 1301-1313.

Bell, J.W., House, P.K., and R.W.Briggs, 2005. Geologic map of the Nixon area, Nevada. Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Map 152.

Wesnousky, S.G., Barron, A.D., Briggs, R.W., Caskey, S.J., Kumar, S., and L. Owen, 2005. Paleoseismic transect across the northern Great Basin, USA. Journal of Geophysical Research (Solid Earth), 110, B05408, doi:10.1029/2004JB003283.

Briggs, R.W. and S.G. Wesnousky, 2004. Late Pleistocene fault slip rate, earthquake recurrence, and recency of slip along the Pyramid Lake fault zone, northern Walker Lane, United States. Journal of Geophysical Research (Solid Earth), Vol. 109,B08402, doi:10.1029/2003JB002717.

Sawyer, T. and R.W. Briggs, 2001. Stop 9: Kinematics and late Quaternary Activity of the Mohawk Valley fault zone. Pacific Cell Friends of the Pleistocene 2001 Fall Field Trip Guidebook.

Wesnousky, S.G., Seeber, L., Rockwell, T., Thakur, V., Briggs, R., Kumar, S., and D. Ragona, 2001. Eight Days in Bhuj: Field Report Bearing on Surface Rupture and Genesis of the 26 January 2001 Earthquake in India. Seismological Research Letters, vol. 72, no. 5, 514-524.