Won-Young Kim Wins Eastern Section SSA Award

October 6, 2008

In recognition of Won-Young Kim for the Jesuit Seismological Association Award of 2008

             Won-Young Kim combines the traditional skills of the classical observational seismologist with the modern skills necessary to obtain good scientific results from the many different types of broadband digital data in use today.  Whether he is working on exotic core phases or on commonly-recorded regional phases, his goals are always to achieve a scientific explanation for interesting phenomena that can be observed on seismograms.  Sometimes he has put his efforts into development of methods, sometimes into field deployments to acquire new data with new instruments.  He has had recent successes with use of waveform fitting to estimate accurate depths and focal mechanisms for earthquakes in eastern North America.

            He is one of the leading researchers in the United States in methods of using seismic waves to discriminate between earthquakes, industrial explosions in mines and quarries, and underground nuclear explosions.  He is first author on several first-rate papers in this area.  He led the effort to use three-component data, to make the high frequency P/Lg spectral discriminant even more effective (paper in BSSA of June 1997).  He applied these methods successfully in papers that identified (from regional seismograms) the explosive nature of the North Korean nuclear test of 2006 October 9.  His work here, including seismograms, made it into the New York Times for 2006 October 10.  The August 1998 BSSA carries his sole-author paper summarizing ten years of observational work in Eastern North America, to develop a new ML scale based on Richter's procedures but applied in the modern context.  The analysis covers a far wider range of frequencies than is possible for earthquakes in the Western U.S. (where high frequencies are attenuated).  This work is highly relevant to studies of earthquake hazard.

            He is known for finding new and effective ways to calibrate different types of digital seismographs.  He has spent years evaluating sites for new seismographic stations in northeastern US and in Central Asia.  All of this work is an expression of his commitment to observational seismology and the need to acquire and interpret data of the highest possible quality.

            He originated and continues to run the Lamont Cooperative Seismographic Network, now with 25 broadband stations and an ever-growing set of interested participants that has started annual meetings --- to share notes and to learn how to use their common resource (the LCSN) for educational purposes in high schools and community colleges as well as for scientific research.

            He led the effort at Lamont to document and interpret seismic signals from the tragedies of 2001 September 11, finding detections up to 400 km from Ground Zero in Manhattan, and supplying numerous investigators with the times of the two plane impacts in Manhattan and the one crash in Pennsylvania.  He also showed that claims of a seismic detection of the attack on the Pentagon were false.  His work here has been an important part of the official U.S. government report on what actually happened in this tragedy.

            He has carried out exemplary studies of specific earthquakes + aftershocks in the eastern United States, including Au Sable Forks, New York (2002 April 20) and Evansville, Indiana (2002 June 18).  In both these cases, the work was greatly advanced by his forceful efforts to track down aftershocks that most people would have missed (and did miss).  He showed the Virginia earthquake of 2003 December 9 was composed of two sub-events 12 s apart.  He has worked to improve the accuracy with which seismic events are located, in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains.

            To summarize: Won-Young Kim's work is based on a keen sense of the importance of operating stations in eastern North America that produce high-quality signals, and tracking down such signals from elsewhere, especially for events in stable continental regions; and interpreting those signals.  He is one of the most expert observational seismologists in the world.  Thus his efforts are worthy of acknowledgment by the JSA, and particularly so because his work is rooted in eastern North America.