Justin Revenaugh

photo of Prof Justin Revenaugh

Justin Revenaugh

Professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences


John T. Tate Hall
Room 385-06
116 Church Street Se
Minneapolis, MN 55455


PhD, 1989, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Research Interests

"And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou?  Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the Earth, and from walking up and down in it." Book of Job, 1:7     

I've always been vaguely amused that Satan, a character long associated with forbidden knowledge, spends his days in the deep Earth--my primary area of interest.  As a seismologist, I use earthquake waves to image deep Earth structure.  My tools are derived from techniques pioneered in the oil industry and designed to detect and characterize abrupt variations in material properties, examples of which include discontinuities associated with phase changes, scatterers created by faulting and jointing of the crust, and slab dregs near the core-mantle boundary.  By imaging these small-scale structures, we learn about the larger questions of Earth's composition, state and dynamics.    

Some of the projects I am involved with are: the relationship between near-fault crustal scattering and seismogenesis, characterization of sub-cratonic reflectors, a search for discontinuities in the mid-mantle (900 to 2000 km depth), detection of mantle water, and probing for ultra-low velocity zones at the base of the mantle.  In the following, I briefly describe the first and last of these.    

Continental crust, especially crust in active areas, is strongly scattering.  Seismic energy propagating through it interacts with strong heterogeneities on many scale lengths, producing a panoply of secondary arrivals that collectively sample a large volume around the source and receiver. We have developed new techniques for mapping scattering heterogeneities. Our results reveal a previously unknown relationship between scattering and seismogenesis in California.  In particular, we find strong correlations between near-fault scattering strength and the production of aftershocks and mainshock slip.  We have even used the offset in scattering variability across the San Andreas fault to obtain an independent estimate of cumulative offset in central California.    

The crust is clearly a pivotal layer in Earth's dynamics and evolution despite being eggshell thin and patchwork woven.  In the last decade, seismology has found a deep-seated analog to the crust:  A chemical and mechanical boundary layer, comparable in thickness to the crust and possibly in its importance to the evolution of the planet, situated directly atop the core-mantle boundary (CMB).  This thin layer (1 to 20 km) of very low seismic velocities is probably partially molten and possibly chemically differentiated from the mantle, and may be a shaper of the geodynamo and a storehouse for deep mantle volatiles and exotic chemistry. My students and I exploit a variety of seismic phases and seismic arrays to image these ultra-low velocity zones (ULVZ).  They are not simple, but rather variable at scale-lengths of several kilometers.  Mapping them thoroughly is hard, but critical to understanding their origin and the roles they play in mantle and core dynamics.  We have proposed a causal link between ULVZ and hotspot plumes. If this hypothesis is correct, ULVZ might be the origin of plumes that initiate supercontinent breakup, whose heads produce flood basalts, and whose legacy in the geologic record includes both mass extinctions and species explosions.    

In addition to seismology, I have active interests in time-series analysis of paleoclimate proxies, geostatistics and coastal processes.

Seismology and Geostatistics Research Group

Currently Teaching Courses
Geology and Cinema
Solid Earth Geophysics I
Geostatistics and Inverse Theory
Geological Signal Processing

Honors and Awards

  • University of California, Santa Cruz, Alumni Association Teaching Award, awarded 2002. 
  • University of California, Santa Cruz, Committee on Teaching Excellence in Teaching Award, 2000.

Selected Publications

  • Courtier, A.M., J.B. Gaherty, J. Revenaugh, M.G. Bostock and E.J. Garnero, Seismic anisotropy associated with continental lithosphere accretion beneath the CANOE array, northwestern Canada, Geology, 38, 887-890, 2010.
  • Bagley, B., A.M. Courtier and J. Revenaugh, Melting in the deep upper mantle oceanward of the Honshu slab, Phys. Earth Planet. Inter., 175, 137-144, 2009.
  • Mercier, J.-P., M.G. Bostock, J.F. Cassidy, K. Dueker, J.B. Gaherty, E.J. Garnero, J. Revenaugh and G. Zandt, Body-wave tomography of western Canada, Tectonophysics, 475, 480-492, 2009. DOI: 10.1016/j.tecto.2009.05.030. 
  • Hutko, A.R., T. Lay and J. Revenaugh,  Localized double-array stacking analysis of PcP: D" and ULVZ structure beneath the Cocos plate, Mexico, central Pacfic and north Pacific, Phys. Earth Planet. Int., 173, 60-74, 2009. 
  • Courtier A. M., J. Revenaugh, Slabs and shear wave reflectors in the midmantle, J. Geophys. Res., 113, B08312, doi:10.1029/2007JB005261, 2008.
  • Hutko, A.R., T. Lay, J. Revenaugh and E.J. Garnero, Anticorrelated seismic velocity anomalies from post-perovskite in the lowermost mantle Hutko, Science, 320, 1070-1074, 2008.
  • Bagley B., J. Revenaugh, Upper mantle seismic shear discontinuities of the Pacific, J. Geophys. Res., 113, B12301, doi:10.1029/2008JB005692, 2008.
  • Mercier J.-P., M. G. Bostock, P. Audet, J. B. Gaherty, E. J. Garnero, J. Revenaugh, The teleseismic signature of fossil subduction: Northwestern Canada, J. Geophys. Res., 113, B04308, doi:10.1029/2007JB005127, 2008.