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David Keefer

David Keefer
David Keefer

The 2010 Sergey Soloviev Medal is awarded to David Keefer for his major scientific contribution to our understanding of the complex system of earthquake-induced landslides and for his innovative methods to assess landslide hazards for the benefit of society.

David Keefer has a global reputation in both landslide and earthquake science. By bringing new insights and methods to mapping and assessing hazards he has played a key role in helping public decision makers to improve mitigation and avoidance whilst reducing costs.

Much of Keefer’s career has been spent working at the United States Geological Survey. He is probably best known for his pioneering work on seismically induced landslides. In 1984 he produced the defining paper on this topic by analysing in detail and with great care data on earthquake-triggered landslides from a wide range of environments. His study generated key relationships between landslide occurrence and parameters such as the earthquake magnitude and the distance to the fault. This work has been replicated on a number of occasions since, using data collected employing modern techniques. It is a testament to the quality of Keefer’s work that to this day the relationships remain as he defined them. Keefer’s studies of earthquake-induced landslides have developed into a wide range of themes but active involvement in areas recently affected by earthquakes has remained a key component of his work. Substantial contributions have included the definition of parameters for determining seismic slope-failure susceptibility from field, laboratory and analytical studies, and the development of new methods for mapping earthquake-induced landslide hazards. He was also a pioneer in the creation of landslide early warning systems, most notably in the San Francisco Bay area, that developed the capability to issue public warnings to potentially-affected communities.

Keefer is the author or co-author of over 130 scientific publications focused on natural hazards, including several articles published in such prestigious journals as Nature and Science. He has been a stalwart in organizing international symposia (including 10 EGS/EGU Natural Hazard Division sessions since 1998) and edited volumes of research papers for the worldwide research communities that study earthquake-induced landslides, thereby defining much of the current state-of-the-art in this field. Keefer is an outstanding and enthusiastic scientist on many levels. He has made undeniably major contributions to his field, and the quality of his work and his warm and open nature have inspired countless others to work in this area.