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Roger Borcherdt

Roger D. Borcherdt is Scientist Emeritus at the U. S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California and past visiting Shimizu and consulting professor at Stanford University. His current major research project is the development of general viscoelastic ray theory as a basis to better understand and interpret seismic wave propagation in anelastic layers of the Earth.

Dr. Borcherdt’s interest in seismology and engineering seismology is manifest in research results documented in more than 200 publications as listed in Google Scholar and ResearchGate. His most significant research since becoming emeritus (2014) is the development of the theory for general viscoelastic rays and head waves from first principles as published in the 2nd edition of his graduate level textbook Viscoelastic Waves and Rays in Layered Media (2020). This theory provides the viscoelastic solutions for forward and inverse ray-theory problems together with general ray-tracing computer algorithms for multi-layered anelastic media ranging from soft soils to mantle and core materials deep within the Earth’s interior. These results explain measurable variations in seismic body and surface waves, such as phase speed, travel time, ray-path location, amplitude attenuation, and particle motion induced by anelastic boundaries in the Earth that are not explained by elastic models. Citations of the textbook reveal applicability of the viscoelastic solutions to a variety of anelastic wave propagation and inversion problems in engineering, seismology, exploration geophysics, acoustics, and solid mechanics.

Dr. Borcherdt’s research interests as documented in publications prior to that of the most recent project include: 1) site-response studies resulting in site coefficients and Vs30 site-class definitions as adopted in national and international building codes and seismic-hazard mitigation maps, 2) mathematical theory of monochromatic wave propagation in layered viscoelastic media as documented in the 1st edition of Viscoleastic Waves in Layered Media (2009), 3) near-source seismic radiation of strain and displacement and its implications for earthquake-fault rupture dynamics as inferred from unprecedented high resolution GEOS recordings of the 2004 M6 Parkfield earthquake, obtained with colleagues, showing no discernible near-field precursory strain or displacement at sensitivities of 10^-11 strain and 5*10^-8 meters, 4) multidisciplinary seismic-zonation and earthquake-loss estimation studies as manifest in initial maps developed with colleagues showing the potential for earthquake intensity (MF-709), surface faulting, ground-motion amplification, and ground failure as prototype maps required by California Law AB-3897 and as extended under the auspicis of FEMA to a national scale in HAZUS, 5) design, construction and deployment with colleagues of the initial central microprocessor controlled wide-dynamic range (180dB) digital strong-motion recording system (GEOS) as a prototype for commercial instrumentation, 6) initial development of US national strong motion instrumentation program to increase public safety by deployments of multiple instrumentation arrays on a national scale to record the response of the built environment  to infrequent large damaging earthquakes for purposes of improving the resilience of man-made structures and communities.

Professional Experience

  • Engineering Criteria Review Board, San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (1991, Vice Chair 2001-2002; Chair 2003 – 2021)

  • Site Characterization Working Group - Next Generation of Attenuation Relations, PEER (Chair 2002 – 2007)

  • Geo-engineering Extreme Events Reconnaissance Advisory Panel, National Science Foundation, (2004 – present)

  • Editorial Board, Earthquake Engineering and Engineering Vibration(2007 – present)

  • HAZUS US National Earthquake Loss Estimation Model Development Steering Committee, Charter member, FEMA (1992 – 2012)

  • HAZUS User's Group Steering Committee, San Francisco Bay Region (1998 – 2005)

  • Bay Bridge Design Task Force Engineering and Design Advisory Panel, East Span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, San Francisco Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission (1996 – 2004)

  • Adhoc Committee on Seismic Ground Motions, East Span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (2001 – 2002)

  • Electronic Publications Committee, Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (1999 – 2002)

  • Scientific Advisory Committee, Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (2001 – 2002)

  • NEHRP Seismic Design Procedures Working Group, National Institute of Building Sciences, Building Seismic Safety Council, (1994 – 1997)

  • NEHRP Recommended Seismic Provision Update Technical Subcommittees 1 (Design Mapping), 3- (Foundations and Geotechnical Considerations), 2003 Edition, National Institute of Building Sciences, Building Seismic Safety Council, FEMA 450 (2000 – 2003)

  • NEHRP Recommended Seismic Provision Update Committee for New and Existing Buildings 2003 Edition, National Institute of Building Sciences, Building Seismic Safety Council, FEMA 450 (2000 – 2003)

  • NEHRP Recommended Seismic Provision Update Committee for New and Existing Buildings 2009 Edition, National Institute of Building Sciences, Building Seismic Safety Council, FEMA 750 (2006 – 2009)

  • NEHRP Recommended Seismic Provision Update Technical Subcommittee 3 (Mapping,  Foundations, and Geotechnical Considerations), 2009 Edition, National Institute of Building Sciences, Building Seismic Safety Council, FEMA 750 (2006 – 2009)

  • AASHTO Federal Highway Bridge Code Provision Update Team 2007 Edition, (2003 – 2007)

  • Applied Technology Council Steering Committee ATC-58 Seismic Performance Assessment of Buildings Vol. 1 – Methodology, FEMA P-58 (2002 – 2012)

  • Strong-motion Programs Advisory Board COSMOS, (1998 – 2006)

  • US National Committee for the Advancement of Strong Motion Programs (CASMP), (1996 – 1999)

  • Federal Highway Seismic Research Council (1993 – 2007)

  • Earthquake Catastrophic Risk Advisory Panel, Wharton School of Business, Univ. Penn., (1998 – 2005)

  • International Handbook of Earthquake Engineering and Seismology, Lee and others, 2003 (Associate Editor)

  • Board of Directors, World Seismic Safety Initiative (2000 – 2008)

Education and Certifications

  • B.A. Mathematics/Physics (cum laude), University of Colorado, Boulder (1963)

  • M.A. Mathematics, University of Wisconsin, Madison (1965)

  • M.S. Engineering Geoscience, University of California, Berkeley (1970)

  • Ph.D. Engineering Geoscience with minors in Applied Mathematics & Theoretical Statistics, University of California, Berkeley (1971)

Affiliations and Memberships*

  • Registered Geophysicist, State of California

  • American Geophysical Union, 1969 –

  • American Society of Civil Engineers, 1972 –

  • Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, 1973 –

    Board of Directors, 1987 – 90

    Vice Pres., 1988 – 90

    Editor, Earthquake Spectra, 1997 – 2002

    Honorary Membership, 2002

    Oral History Comm., 2004–22

  • Seismological Society of America, 1968 –

  • Co-Chair, 4th Int’l. Conf. Seismic Zonation, 1989 – 91

  • Structural Engineering Association of California, 1993 –

  • Phi Beta Kappa Honorary Society, 1963 –

  • COSMOS, 1998 –

    General Membership Chair

    Advisory Board

  • Society of Exploration Geophysics, 1969 – 1978, 2020 –

  • American Mathematical Society, 1962 – 1967

Honors and Awards

  • Bruce A. Bolt Medal (2016) awarded jointly by Consortium of Strong Motion Observation Systems, Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, and Seismological Society of America

  • Distinguished Service Award, Department of Interior (2010) for “exceptional scientific contributions in the fields of seismology and engineering seismology, extraordinarily broad in scope”

  • Meritorious Service Award, Department of Interior (1993) for “scientific contributions and leadership in engineering seismology”

  • Shimizu Visiting Professor, Stanford University (1989 – 1991)

  • Outstanding Paper Award 1994, Earthquake Spectra, 10, 617-653

  • Outstanding Paper Award 2002, Earthquake Spectra, 18, 189-218

  • Honorary Membership, Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, 2002 –

Science and Products

*Disclaimer: Listing outside positions with professional scientific organizations on this Staff Profile are for informational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement of those professional scientific organizations or their activities by the USGS, Department of the Interior, or U.S. Government