Christopher H. Scholz

Professor Emeritus of Earth and Environmental Sciences and of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics

Applied Mathematics / Earth & Environmental Sciences
Office: 228 Seismology
Mail: 61 Route 9W
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Palisades, NY 10964
Phone: 1-845-365-8360

Research Specialty

tectonophysics, experimental and theoretical rock mechanics, especially friction, fracture, hydraulic transport properties, nonlinear systems, mechanics of earthquakes and faulting


Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1967

Research Interests

The upper 10-40 km of Earth is cold and brittle. Most deformation in that region is therefore brittle, which in the long timescale occurs by the slip and growth of faults and on the short timescale occurs by earthquakes. Brittle tectonics thus is a single dynamical system that involves both the mechanics of faulting and of earthquakes. My research involves the study of this system in its entirety, employing laboratory experimentation on rock fracture and friction, observational and field study of earthquakes and faults, and theory. The work is physics based and is not regional. Earthquakes and faults selected for special study are global in extent and are selected based on criteria relevant to their likelihood of revealing new aspects of their mechanics. Recent fault studies have been in Ethiopia, Malawi, Iceland, California and New York.

Scholz earned a B.S. in Geological Engineering from the University of Nevada in 1964 and a Ph.D. in Rock Mechanics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1967. He was one of the first to combine discipline fields of Geological Engineering and Physics in order to better understand the process of what is happening with tectonic plates and how earthquakes are formed Scholz is a Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences and of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics at Columbia University. The author of more than 250 papers, his monograph, “The Mechanics of Earthquakes and Faulting” (2002) is considered the authoritative work on that subject. He has studied earthquakes extensively in Japan, New Zealand, southern Africa, the western U.S., and the island arcs of the Pacific. He received the Murchison Medal from the Geological Society of London in 2005 and the Harry Fielding Reid Medal from the Seismological Society of America in 2016.

Selected Publications

Transition regimes for growing crack populations, Spyropoulos, C.; Scholz, C. H.; Shaw, B. E. , Physical Review E, May, Volume 65, Issue 5, p.-, (2002), Doi 10.1103/Physreve.65.056105

The Mechanics of Earthquakes and Faulting, 2nd ed, Scholz, C. H. , (2002)

Earthquakes and friction laws, Scholz, C. H., Nature, 391(6662), 37-42 (1998)

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