National Weather Service seismic and tsunami expert to head Seismological Society of America

April 21, 2011

Christa von Hillebrandt-Andrade, manager of the NOAA National Weather Service Caribbean Tsunami Warning Program, has been named as the new president of the Seismological Society of America (SSA).  With the announcement at the SSA’s 2011 Annual Meeting in Memphis, Tenn., she became the first NOAA/NWS official and only the second woman elected to the prestigious post in the organization’s 105-year history.

Christa von Hillebrandt-Andrade

Christa von Hillebrandt-Andrade

High Resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Her selection was announced by SSA Board Member Mary Lou Zoback who noted, “Christa von Hillebrandt-Andrade is a well-recognized expert on tsunamis and seismology.  Her leadership will provide the society with an opportunity to strengthen its interaction and involvement with Latin American seismologists.”

Prior to her appointment as head of the Caribbean Tsunami Warning Program in 2010, she served as the director of the Puerto Rico Seismic Network and as a member of the University of Puerto Rico Geology Department in Mayagüez. Her experience in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and South America has afforded her a unique familiarity with a variety of natural hazards such as volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis. 

“As evidenced recently in Japan and Haiti, the vulnerability of human life from earthquakes continues to increase,” said von Hillebrandt Andrade. “Saving lives in these cases is a complex puzzle in which every piece is essential. The interface between science and the protection of life depends on our continuing progress in understanding the processes at work.”

The author and co-author of more than 50 journal papers and abstracts on earthquakes and tsunamis, von Hillebrandt-Andrade has also served on the Puerto Rico Earthquake Safety Commission and the Puerto Rico Tsunami Technical Review Committee.

In addition to her membership in the SSA, she is a member of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, the American Geophysical Union and the Geological Society of Puerto Rico.  The SSA twice elected her as a director in 2007 and 2010 and as vice president in 2009.

During the last six years, she has served as a member of United States delegations to the United Nations (UNESCO) meetings on tsunamis and the oceans. In 2010, she was elected vice-chair of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Coordination Group on Tsunamis and Other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions - encompassing more than 40 nations and territories in the Caribbean and Americas.

After graduating as a geologist from the University of Delaware, von Hillebrandt-Andrade went to Quito, Ecuador, as a Fulbright Scholar and received a master’s degree in Geology from the Escuela Politécnica Nacional. She played an important role in monitoring the active volcanoes of that Andean county and co-authored its first volcanic hazard maps as a Research Engineer with the Nacional’s Geophysical Institute.

Founded in 1906 in San Francisco, the Seismological Society of America now has members throughout the world representing a variety of technical interests. Members include seismologists and other geophysicists, geologists, engineers, insurers, and policy-makers in preparedness and safety.

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