July - September 1998

Table of Contents

David McGregor Retires
Dmitry Storchak Promoted to Senior Seismologist
New Seismologist Hired
Distinguished Visitors
New on the Web Site
More Work Stations Installed
Reorganisation of Data Management Begins
ISC Papers at the ESC
Noted with Regret

David McGregor Retires

Deputy Director David McGregor retired in August after 34 years with the ISC. David joined the ISC as its first employee when it was located at its original site in Oswald Road, Edinburgh, and continued with the Centre at its subsequent homes in Edinburgh, Newbury, and Thatcham. Together with former Director Anthony Hughes he was one of the four people who moved with the ISC when it relocated to southern England.

Educated as a geologist, David began his service with the ISC developing computer programs, back when programmers carefully guarded cabinets filled with precious punched cards. As time went on, he transferred a growing library of programs from cards to tapes to disks and modified them, first to run on IBM computers at Rutherford-Appleton Lab and later to run on the ISCís own VAX computers.

David and his wife, Pat, opened their home over the years to graciously host many ISC employees arriving from abroad. Pat also often translated macroseismic reports for the Bulletin and abstracts for the Bibliography.

In 1977 David became Deputy Director of the ISC and was responsible amongst other duties for selecting the technologies that the ISC embraced to collect, process and edit an ever-growing volume of data. Over time, David became an important part of the Centreís institutional memory and his contribution to its development has been uniquely valuable. He has generously offered to help recover data from the ISCís archive tapes as the Centre establishes a modern database.

Dmitry Storchak Promoted to Senior Seismologist

Seismologist Dmitry Storchak has accepted a permanent appointment as senior seismologist. Dmitry earned his Ph.D. in 1994 from the Russian Academy Institute of Physics of the Earth. He has participated in several seismic hazard analysis projects, including compilation of catalogues for GSHAP. Dmitry first joined the ISC in 1995 for an INTAS-funded project on consolidation of data from regional catalogues. He rejoined the Centre to edit the Bulletin full-time on a two-year appointment from early 1997.

Dmitry is the longest-serving seismologist now at the Centre, and has benefited from interaction with Robin Adams, Wayne Richardson, Reinhard Mittag and Anthony Hughes. Over the last year, Dmitry has helped to train Alison Bird and worked with Carol Tubby to develop a new editing system that allows keying directly from marked listings. Since it avoids manually writing event and record numbers to coding sheets, the new system is both more efficient and less error prone.


Dmitry, his wife Oxana and his daughter
Katya, who now may never lose her
distinctive "Berkshire" accent.

New Seismologist Hired

As recommended by the Executive Committee at its meeting in July, the Centre has been seeking an additional seismologist to help reduce the accumulated backlog in Bulletin production. We received applications from many well-qualified candidates, and we were able to choose among seismologists with outstanding credentials and years of directly relevant experience.

Mr. Mamy Andrianirina of the Malagasy Republic has accepted a two-year appointment at the Centre, and we expect him to join us in November. Mamy holds university degrees in physics and chemistry and a post-graduate diploma in seismology. He has located regional and teleseismic earthquakes for the Institute and Observatory of Geophysics, Antananarivo, since 1989. Mamy participated recently in the seismology course of the International Institute of Seismology and Earthquake Engineering in Japan, and Daisuke Suetsugu rates him as one of the best participants in 35 years.

Distinguished Visitors

Stephen Cox, Executive Secretary of the Royal Society, paid an informal visit to the ISC in August. Among other topics, Mr. Cox offered suggestions on sources of supplementary funding, including the Royal Society International Exchange Programme. With some other funding agencies, such as the UK National Environment Research Council and the European Science Foundation, the Royal Society may be able to provide references to support applications from the ISC.

David Rendel, the local Member of Parliament, visited the ISC in September. Mr. Rendel promised to support the ISC, and featured the Centre in his weekly newspaper column the following week. He offered suggestions on grants to support educational outreach programmes in the ISCís neighbourhood.

New on the Web Site

The complete Bulletin, January 1964 Ė April 1996, is now available from the ISC web site, at www.isc.ac.uk/search/bulletin. Data from before 1994 were put on-line in late September following configuration of further disk space.

The program for selecting events has been modified to include magnitude and amplitude criteria. Users may now select events within rectangular regions or based on distance from arbitrary locations. There is a new option that begins to take advantage of the hypertext capabilities of the web within the Bulletin data itself. If the "include links" option is selected, each primary origin is presented as a link to the associated phase readings and each Harvard MW is linked to the complete solution for that event at the Harvard University CMT Project web site.

More Work Stations Installed

Three further Sun workstations were installed at the ISC in September, bringing the total to 5. With retirement of the VAX growing ever closer, this is an important step in the Centreís computer modernisation programme, which is partially funded by the US NSF. Putting computing capability on the desktop of each ISC staff member will enable Centre operations to evolve away from batch processing towards an interactive model.

One immediate benefit is a many-fold reduction in processing time; runs that took several hours on the VAX take only a few minutes on the Suns. Another benefit is that seismologists editing the Bulletin can more easily link processes together, for example by leaving several utilities running in separate windows and pasting results from one into another.

Reorganisation of Data Management Begins

The ISC has purchased the Oracle 8 relational database management system. Migration of the ISC data to a coherent management system is an important element in the Centreís draft long-range plan (available in Postscript format from www.isc.ac.uk/doc). Ultimately, a relational database is intended to replace the current system of managing data in a variety of different formats as it is collected, processed, edited and finally distributed to users. The management system will provide quicker and more flexible data retrieval, which is important as access to ISC data from its web site grows. The database management system also helps to insure integrity of the data while multiple users are updating it simultaneously. This is an essential service for the ISC as it moves towards an interactive system for editing the Bulletin.

The selection of Oracle 8 was based on Oracleís strong position in the data management software field, success of other seismic data centres implementing Oracle data management systems, and favourable pricing compared with other vendors. By sharing a common data management system with other seismic data centres, the ISC may have more opportunities to exchange lessons and perhaps even to share software.

ISC Papers at the ESC

Dmitry Storchak and Ray Willemann each presented a paper at the European Seismological Commissionís General Assembly in Tel Aviv during August. Ray discussed ISC regional thresholds, described in last quarterís Update.

Dmitryís paper, co-authored by Alison Bird and Robin Adams, compared the locations of the same events in the Reviewed Event Bulletin of the GSETT-3 IDC, the Earthquake Data Reports of the US NEIS, and the ISC Bulletin. Most location discrepancies are less than 1° but several per cent exceed 5° and a few are greater than 20°. Even for events as large as mb 5.5, discrepancies of several degrees exist and are considerably greater than the standard errors. Large discrepancies are more common in a few geographic regions, especially New Caledonia, Kermadec, Fiji, Vanuatu, Myanmar, Ryuku Islands, Hindu-Kush and East Africa.

From examination of typical examples, larger numbers of arrivals in later bulletins can produce more reliable locations even where early bulletins include no mis-associations. In other cases, the increasing number of data and availability of analysis by regional seismologists for later reports helps reveal mis-associations, enabling correction of badly mislocated events in some cases. Further details are available.


Noted with Regret

Robin Adams, ISCís senior seismologist from 1978 to 1995, lost his wife, Thelma, to cancer in August. Robin is writing a book on historical seismicity of Central America, and continues to spend a few days at the Centre each week to consult its collection, use its computing facilities, check for post, phone messages and e-mail, and share his good spirits and wisdom with us.