Diego Melgar Moctezuma

Charles F. Richter Early Career Award | 2016 Recipient

Early in his career, seismologist Diego Melgar Moctezuma has already made significant research contributions in the areas of earthquake rupture and early warning, tsunami modeling, and community outreach regarding earthquakes and geosciences.

Melgar, a 32-year-old assistant researcher at the Seismological Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, “has already distinguished himself as a top researcher of first-order problems in seismology, geodesy, tectonophysics and natural hazards,” said Yehuda Bock, a Distinguished Researcher and Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “His work is also distinguished by its significant societal benefits.”

Throughout his career, Melgar has shown a remarkable ability to synthesize data from multiple sources to learn more about constraining the source of earthquakes and improving understanding of the physics of earthquake rupture; computing earthquake magnitudes from scaling of peak ground displacement from high-sample-rate GPS; and developing the methodology behind a rapid and efficient tsunami warning system. He has published more than 22 peer-reviewed papers in top journals, as the first author on half of these papers.

Melgar’s work has found direct relevance to applications such as the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system for the U.S. west coast and local tsunami warnings for the Pacific Rim by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Tsunami Warning Centers. He is also in charge of maintaining the Bay Area Regional Deformation Network, a 32-station, real-time GPS network that monitors crustal deformation in the region for earthquake hazard reduction studies and earthquake response.

In his nomination for the award, several of Melgar’s colleagues noted his considerable skills at sharing seismological research with a variety of audiences in presentations, workshops, seminars and media interviews.

“I’m humbled by this award, to be recognized by such a distinguished community of scientists is a great honor that I never imagined when I embarked in a career in seismology,” said Melgar.

Melgar received his undergraduate degree in geophysics in 2009 from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), and his master’s (2010) and Ph.D. (2014) degrees in geophysics from Scripps Institution of Oceanography.