Earthquake Damage
Sunset over coast
Seaside Bridge


A New Initiative to Investigate the Processes that Underlie Subduction Zone Hazards

A community-driven Research Coordination Network to develop a new long-term research plan

for focused study on land and under the sea


SZ4D International Webinars: Permanent deformation and relief construction at plate boundaries (with emphasis in the Andes)

Did you miss Felipe Aron's webinar? Catch up by watching the video on the permanent deformation and relief construction at plate boundaries, with an emphasis on the Andes.

What is SZ4D?

A vision of coordinated research to understand the processes that underlie subduction zone hazards

SZ4D is a new initiative in the U.S. research community to study subduction zones – the places where tectonic plates converge and collide – through both space and time, with a focus on the fundamental processes underlying geologic hazards such as great earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, and volcanic eruptions. 


Subduction zones produce the most devastating seismic, volcanic, and landslide hazards on the planet, yet we lack critical understanding of the basic physical and chemical processes controlling the occurrence and magnitude of earthquakes or eruptions. 


SZ4D focuses on designing targeted experiments to make the next big leaps in understanding of the processes underlying subduction geohazards. These are envisioned to involve comprehensive suites of new measurements to study subduction processes at key locations on the planet and fully incorporate the fourth dimension of time.  


The SZ4D Vision that emerged at the NSF-sponsored Subduction Zone Observatory Workshop (2016) was a vision for a new Subduction Zone Initiative (SZ4D) to capture and model emergent earthquake, tsunami, landslide, and volcanic phenomena over space and time. The ensuing "SZ4D Vision Document" workshop report identified three key components to develop and phase in over the next 3 to 4 years, all developed and guided by an integrative organization:


  • an interdisciplinary science program

  • a modeling collaboratory

  • a community infrastructure program


Apply universal instrumentation suite to volcanoes in subduction zones


Mine geological record for rheological, chemical, and historical context


Monitor Change with dense amphibious geodetic and seismic systems


Image subsurface to directly determine structures


Map bathymetry and topography at ultra high resolution


Build computational models that integrate field observations and laboratory data


Build human capacity to perform this multidisciplinary research using the full diversity of people available


Transform this information into meaningful results that can be immediately utilized by the affected communities

Credit: Katy Cain/Carnegie Institution for Science, modified after Plank and McGuire, 2017.

The SZ4D Research Coordination Network

That integrative organization is the Research Coordination Network, or RCN. From 2018 to 2021, its National Science Foundation-funded mission is to coordinate and guide the development of the SZ4D Initiative, turning the conceptual SZ4D Vision into a unified, concrete community plan for a decade-long coordinated research effort. 


SZ4D RCN comprises a Steering Committee, Interest Groups on key elements of the program, and Working Groups that will be tasked to develop detailed plans. 


Steering Committee: 

Harold Tobin* (chair)              University of Washington

Thorsten Becker                     University of Texas - Austin

Emily Brodsky*                       University of California, Santa Cruz

Mike Brudzinski                      Miami University

Roland Bürgmann                  University of California Berkeley

Alison Duvall                           University of Washington

Tobias Fischer                         University of New Mexico

Melodie French                      Rice University

Sean Gallen                            Colorado State University

Matt Haney                             U. S. Geological Survey

George Hilley*                        Stanford University

Andrew Newman                   Georgia Tech

Terry Plank                              Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University

Diana Roman*                        Carnegie Institution for Science

Donna Shillington                  Northern Arizona University

Christy Till                               Arizona State University

Doug Wiens                           Washington University, St. Louis


* Executive Committee of the RCN


The SZ4D Research Coordination Network is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Community Planning Documents


USGS Subduction Zone Science Plan


National Academies ERUPT Report

SZ4D NSF Vision Document

Other Groups Under the SZ4D Coordination Umbrella

These are additional NSF-funded RCNs that are tackling specific parts of the SZ4D Vision


Modeling Collaboratory

for Subduction (MCS)

Community Network for Volcanic Eruption Response (CONVERSE)


Interest Groups

Faulting and Earthquake Cycles

Magmatic Drivers of Eruption

Landscapes and Seascapes: Surface Processes & Subduction

International Partners