Olaf Zielke

Research Scientists



B1L3 R3109

Research Interest

My work focusses on the recurrence of large and potentially destructive earthquakes.  I want to help answering questions such as: What parameters control the timing and size of earthquakes? How is the occurrence of earthquakes along a fault characterized? Are earthquakes predictable and if so, in which way or form?

To address these questions, I use observational data from paleoseismology and tectonic geomorphology, providing critical information about a fault’s past rupture behavior. Additionally, I develop and apply numerical tools that incorporate the current understanding of rupture process and earthquake cycle (e.g., multi-cycle earthquake rupture simulators). Using this approach, I generate long sequences of earthquakes to analyze, among other aspects, the recurrence of large earthquakes. I am particularly interested in learning how the complexity of fault geometry and the spatial distribution of rupture-controlling parameters along the fault surface affect earthquake recurrence and its predictability.

Selected Publications

  • Zielke, O., D. Schorlemmer, S. Jónsson, and P.M. Mai (2020), Magnitude-dependent transient increase of seismogenic depth, Seismol. Res. Lett. (XX), 1-10, doi: 10.1785/0220190392.
  • Vasyura-Bathke, H., J. Dettmer, A. Steinberg, S. Heimann, M.P. Isken, O. Zielke, P.M. Mai, H. Sudhaus, and S. Jónsson, (2020), The Baysian Earthquake Analysis Tool, Seismol. Res. Lett. XX, 1-16, doi:10.1785/0220190075.
  • Brothers, D. S., N. C. Miller, J. V. Barrie, P. J. Haeussler, H. G. Greene, B. D. Andrews, O. Zielke, J. Watt, and P. Dartnell (2020), Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 530, 115882, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2019.115882.
  • Zielke, O. (2018), Earthquake recurrence and the resolution potential of tectono-geomorphic records, Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am., 108(3A), 1399-1413, doi:10.1785/0120170241. 
  • Ren, Z., O. Zielke, and J. Yu (2018), Active tectonics in 4D high-resolution, J. Struct. Geol., 117, 264-271.doi: 10.1016/j.jsg.2018.09.015.
  • Zielke, O., M. Galis, and P. M. Mai (2017), Fault roughness and strength heterogeneity control earthquake size and stress drop, Geophys. Res. Lett. doi:10.1002/2016GL071700.
  • Zielke, O. and P. M. Mai (2016), Subpatch roughness in earthquake rupture investigations, Geophys. Res. Lett.43, 1893-1900, doi:10.1002/2015GL067084.
  • Mai, P. M., D. Schorlemmer, M. Page, J.-P. Ampuero, K. Asano, M. Causse, S. Custodio, W. Fan, G. Festa, M. Galis, F. Gallovic, W. Imperatori, M. Kaeser, D. Malytskyy, R. Okuwaki, F. Pollitz, L. Passone, H. Razafindrakoto, H. Sekiguchi, S. Goo Song, S. Somala, K. Thingbaijam, C. Twardzik, M. vanDriel, J. Vyas, R. Wang, and O. Zielke (2016), The earthquake-source inversion validation (SIV) project, Seis. Res. Lett. 87(3), 690-708, doi: 10.1785/0220150231. 
  • Haddon, E. K., C. B. Amos, O. Zielke, A. S. Jayko, and R. Bürgmann (2016), Surface slip during the large Owens Valley earthquakes, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 17, 2239-2269, doi:10.1002/2015GC006033.
  • Zielke, O., Y. Klinger, J R. Arrowsmith (2015, invited review paper), Fault Slip and Earthquake Recurrence Along Strike-Slip Faults --Contributions Of High-Resolution Geomporphic Data, Tectonophysics, doi:10.1016/j.tecto.2014.11.004.
  • Akciz, S. O., Grant-Ludwig L. B., Zielke, O., and J R. Arrowsmith (2014), 3D investigation of a 5m deflected swale along the San Andreas Fault in the Carrizo Plain, Bull. Seis. Soc. Am. 104(6), doi:10.1785/0120120172.
  • Landgraf, A., O. Zielke, R. Arrowsmith, P. Ballato, M.R. Strecker, T.F. Schildgen, A.M. Friedrich, and S.H. Tabatabaei (2013), Differentiating simple and composite tectonic landscapes using numerical fault-slip modeling with an example from the south-central Alborz Mountains, Iran, J. Geophys. Res118, 1-14, doi: 10.1002/jgrf.20109.
  • Haddad, D., S. O. Akciz, J R. Arrowsmith, J. S. Oldow, D. D. Rhodes, O. Zielke , N. A. Toke, A. G. Haddad, and J. Mauer, Applications of airborne and terrestrial laser scanning to paleoseismology, in-review with Geosphere.
  • Zielke, O ., J R. Arrowsmith, L. B. Grant-Ludwig, and S. O. Akciz (2012), High Resolution Topography-Derived Offset Along the 1857 Fort Tejon Earthquake Rupture Trace, San Andreas Fault, Bull. Seis. Soc. Am. 102(3), pp., doi: 10.1785/0120110230.
  • Zielke, O ., and J R. Arrowsmith (2012), LaDiCaoz and LiDARimager -MATLAB GUIs for LiDAR data handling and lateral displacement measurement, Geosphere 8(1), 206-221, doi: 10.1130/GES00686.1. 
  • Grant-Ludwig, L. B., S. O. Akciz, G. R. Noriega, O. Zielke , and J R. Arrowsmith (2010), Variable slip on the San Andreas Fault in the Carrizo Plain, California, Science 327, 1117-1119, doi: 10.1126/science.1182837.
  • Zielke, O. , J R. Arrowsmith, L. B. Grant-Ludwig, and S. O. Akciz (2010), Slip in the 1857 and earlier large earthquakes along the Carrizo segment, San Andreas Fault, Science 327, 1119-1122, doi: 10.1126/science.1182781.
  • Akciz, S. O., Grant-Ludwig L. B., Arrowsmith J R., and O. Zielke  (2010), Century-long average time intervals between earthquake ruptures of the San Andreas fault in the Carrizo Plain, California, Geology 38(9), 787-790, doi: 10.1130/G30995.1.
  • Zielke, O. , and M. R. Strecker (2009), Recurrence of large earthquakes in magmatic continental rifts: Insights from a paleoseismic study along the Laikipia–Marmanet fault, Subukia Valley, Kenya Rift, Bull. Seis. Soc. Am. 99, 61-70, doi: 10.1785/0120080015.
  • Arrowsmith, J R., and O. Zielke  (2009), Tectonic Geomorphology of the San Andreas Fault Zone From High Resolution Topography: an Example From the Cholame Segment, Geomorphology 113, 70-81, doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2009.01.002.
  • Zielke, O. , and J R. Arrowsmith (2008), Depth variation of coseismic stress drop explains bimodal earthquake magnitude – frequency distribution, Geophys. Res. Lett. 35, L24301, doi:10.1029/2008GL036249.


  • 2009 Ph.D., Geosciences, Arizona State University ASU, USA 
  • 2004 Diplom, Geosciences, University of Potsdam, Germany

Professional Profile

  • 2012 – present: Research Scientist, KAUST, Saudi Arabia
  • 2010 –  2012: Postdoctoral research associate, University of Potsdam, Germany
  • 2009 – 2010: Postdoctoral research associate, Arizona State University, USA

Scientific and Professional Membership

American Geophysical Union, AGU

European Geosciences Union, EGU


  • 2013 Editors Citation for “Excellence in Reviewing” for outstanding service to the authors and readers of the Journal of Geophysical Research –Solid Earth; American Geophysical Union.

  • 2007 Outstanding Student Paper Award for presentation at the 2007 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco, CA, “ Effect of fault roughness on scaling relationships among earthquake magnitude and rupture characteristics”