Brian G McAdoo

Science (Environmental Studies and Geophysics)


Contact No.: +65 6601-3250

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Professor McAdoo is a tsunami scientist who comes to Yale-NUS College from Vassar College. He completed his undergraduate at Duke University (Geology), studied the Alpine Fault in New Zealand as a Fulbright Scholar, and obtained a PhD at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he worked on submarine geomorphology.

During his PhD research at UC Santa Cruz, Prof McAdoo studied the processes that help shape the deep ocean seafloor. Earlier on, Prof McAdoo found himself three kilometres below the sea surface in the research submersible Alvin, studying the effects of earthquakes. Oil companies were interested in this work as dwindling nearshore resources pushed exploration into deeper waters. After working as an exploration geologist for a major oil company in the Niger Delta, Prof McAdoo realised that an interdisciplinary understanding was required to address the multitude of social and environmental problems associated with the industry.

The same processes that interest oil companies also generate tsunamis. In 1998, a relatively mild earthquake generated a major tsunami in Papua New Guinea. How did this tsunami cause so much loss, and what can be done to reduce the losses from future tsunami? While working on this question at the ETH Zurich in late 2004, the ocean rose again and changed the world. Prof McAdoo was a member of the first scientific teams to document the effects of the Indian Ocean tsunami in Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Aceh Province in Indonesia. Similar to the social/environmental issues surrounding oil development, it became readily apparent that the destruction from natural disasters was not simply due to massive geophysical disturbances, but also human and ecological factors. Again, integrated approaches are necessary to reduce the risk of natural disasters. Responses to subsequent disasters in the Solomon Islands, Samoa, Haiti and Japan inspired Prof McAdoo’s present research and a new course on Risk and Geohazards that ties together geophysical events, economic development and social realities in areas affected by earthquakes, tropical cyclones and climate change.


McAdoo, B.G. and L. Paravisini-Gebert, Not the Earthquake’s Fault, Nature Geoscience, doi: 10.1038/ngeo_1116, 2011.

Moore, A., J. Goff, B. McAdoo, H. Fritz, A. Gusman, N. Kalligeris, K. Kaslum, A. Susanto, D. Suteja, and C. Synolakis, “Sedimentary deposits from the 17 July 2006 West Java tsunami near Cilacap, Indonesia”, Pure and Applied Geophysics, 2011.

Comfort, L.K., L. Huggins, M. Siciliano, S. Scheinert, P. Sweeney, S. Stebbins, T. Serrant, B. McAdoo, J. Augenstein, and N. Krenitsky, “Transition from response to recovery: The January 12, 2010 Haiti earthquake”, Earthquake Spectra, 2011.

Borrero, J, B. McAdoo, B. Jaffe, L. Dengler, G. Gelfenbaum, B. Higman, R. Hidayat, A. Moore, W. Kongko, Lukijanto, R. Peters, G. Prasetya, V. Titov, E. Yulianto, “Field Survey of the March 28, 2005 Nias-Simeulue Earthquake and Tsunami”, Pure and Applied Geophysics, DOI 10.1007/s00024-010-0218-6, 2011.

Goff, J., C. Chague-Goff, D. Dominey-Howes, B.G. McAdoo, S. Cronin, M. Bonte-Grapetin, S. Nichol, M. Horrocks, M. Cisternas, G. Lamarche, B. Pelletier, B. Jaffe, and W. Dudley, “Paleotsunamis in the Pacific Islands”, Earth Science Reviews, 2011.

Gaillard, J.C., K. Sudmeier-Rieux, I. Kelman, and B. McAdoo, “Cross cultural interactions”, in Encyclopedia of Disaster Relief, Routledge, 2011.

McAdoo, B. G., Samuelu, J., L. Bell, P. Ifopo, J. Ward, E. Lovell, P. Skelton, “Coral reefs as buffers during the 2009 South Pacific tsunami, Upolu Island, Samoa”, Earth Science Reviews, DOI 10.1016/j.earscirev.2010.11.005, 2010.

McAdoo, B.G., A. Moore, and J. Baumwoll, “Indigenous knowledge and the near field population response during the 2007 Solomon Islands tsunami”, Natural Hazards 48, no. 1, p. 73-83, 2009.

Monecke, K., W. Finger, D. Klarer, W. Kongko, B.G. McAdoo, A.L. Moore, and S.U. Sudrajat, “A 1,000-year sediment record of tsunami recurrence in northern Sumatra”, Nature 455, p. 1232-1234, 2008.

Morgan, E., B.G. McAdoo, and L. Baise, “Quantifying geomorphology associated with large subduction zone earthquakes”, Basin Research 20, p. 531-542, 2008.

Foundations of Science