Richard Allen

Research Expertise and Interest

seismology earthquakes earthquake hazard mitigation earth structure tomography natural hazards

Research Description

Richard Allen is the Director of the Berkeley Seismology Lab, the Class of 1954 Endowed Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science at UC Berkeley, and holds a Visiting Faculty position as a member of the Earthquake Team at Google. He is also the Interim Dean for the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences in the College of Letters and Sciences at UC Berkeley.

He is an expert in earthquake alerting systems and deep Earth imaging. He has led development of methodologies to detect earthquakes and issue warnings prior to shaking, using both traditional seismic and GPS sensing networks, as well as the MyShake smartphone seismic network created by his research group. Allen’s lab also uses geophysical sensing networks to image the internal 3D structure of the Earth and constrain the driving forces responsible for earthquakes, volcanoes and other deformation of the Earth’s surface.

His research has been featured in Science, Nature, Scientific American, the New York Times and dozens of other media outlets around the world. His original early warning algorithm was named in Discover Magazine’s top 100 science stories for 2003, and became the backbone for ShakeAlert, the U.S. earthquake early warning system. MyShake was an inspiration for Google's global Android Earthquake Alerts system, which was named one of the greatest innovations in 2020 by Popular Science.

He has a BA from the University of Cambridge, a PhD from Princeton University, and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Caltech.

In the News

With a nod to UC Berkeley, Google crowdsources earthquake data

A UC Berkeley idea to crowdsource every cellphone on the planet to create a global seismic network has been adapted by Google and incorporated into the Android operating system, kicking off an effort to build the world’s largest network of earthquake detectors.

California rolls out first statewide earthquake early warning system

California Gov. Gavin Newsom today (Thursday, Oct. 17) announced the debut of the nation’s first statewide earthquake early warning system that will deliver alerts to people’s cellphones through an app developed at the University of California, Berkeley. The mobile phone app, MyShake, can provide seconds of warning before the ground starts to shake from a nearby quake — enough time to drop, cover and hold on to prevent injury.

Scientists map source of Northwest’s next big quake

A large team of scientists has nearly completed the first map of the mantle under the tectonic plate that is colliding with the Pacific Northwest and putting Seattle, Portland and Vancouver at risk of the largest earthquakes and tsunamis in the world.

Earthquake alert system may be coming

The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported on the work of Richard M. Allen, Director of the UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory, for helping to develop an early warning system that flashes imminent danger when a damaging earthquake is about to strike.

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
July 31, 2019
Maya Wei-Haas
A missing piece of the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate under central Oregon suggests that the plate is breaking apart some 93 or more miles under the Earth's surface, according to a new study co-authored by doctoral earth and planetary science student William Hawley and earth and planetary science professor Richard Allen, director of the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory. The oceanic plate plunges under the North American plate in the Cascadia subduction zone, and it could unleash one of the largest possible earthquakes in the U.S. someday. The researchers drew their conclusions after mapping the different speeds of seismic waves created by 217 earthquakes, and looked at how the waves changed according to the temperature and composition of the rock. What they perceived was that the colder, denser Juan de Fuca plate is sinking into the mantle and part of it is, in fact, missing. "What we are looking at right now is the death of an oceanic plate," Hawley says. Another story on this topic appeared in Science Alert.
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