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William E. Holt

Office: ESS 334
Phone: 631-632-8215    

E-mail: william.holt@

B.S., Northern Arizona University, 1983
Ph.D., University of Arizona, 1989
Postdoctoral Fellow, DSIR Geology and Geophysics, New Zealand, 1989-91
Faculty member at Stony Brook since 1991
William Holt CV

My main areas of research involve the investigation into the kinematics and dynamics of large-scale deformation of the Earth's lithosphere and the coupling of the lithosphere with mantle convection. I am also interested in modern time-dependent kinematics of the lithosphere using InSAR and GNSS observations as constraints. Finally, I am interested in methods of wave gradiometry to infer the seismic properties of the crust and upper mantle using the wavefield captured within seismic arrays.

The Dynamics of Southwestern North America from Eocene - Present

I am currently working on the 3-D dynamics of SW North America from Eocene-Present. This work addresses the lithosphere deformation by accounting for inferred paleo-topography, depth-dependent rheology, and full coupling with mantle flow. I am interested in the driving mechanisms for this complex 3-D deformation field over time. Thermomecanical models are coupled to climate to also predict landscape evolution, drainage system evolution, and sedimentary deposits over time. Thus, observations of lithosphere structure, composition, and thermal state (through collaboration with Professor Weisen Shen), thermochronology, geochronology (in collaboration with Professor Troy Rasbury), structural geology, and the sedimentary record offer important constraints. This effort was refined through work with former Ph.D. student Ali Bahadori (Bahadori et al., 2018, 2022a,2022b; Bahadori and Holt, 2018). In 2023 we are beginning a new project to continue the collaborative work on the 4-D dynamics of SW North America. We are working with colleagues to explore the linkage between the timing of emplacement of fluorspar deposits and the evolution of the dynamic system.

The Dynamics of East African Rift in the Turkana Basin Region

Using methods that are like those used to explore SW North America geodynamics, I am working with colleagues to investigate 3-D thermomechanical models of the East African Rift region. These models are also coupled to climate/erosion models to predict landscape evolution. This effort is part of a broader project to explore the linkage between tectonics, climate, and life, from Miocene to present, within the Turkana Basin region of Kenya.

Time Dependent Crustal Strain in SW North America Inferred from GNSS and InSAR observations

We use GNSS and InSAR data to infer the distribution of the crustal strain rate field within Western North America. We are presently refining methods for joint inversion of GNSS and InSAR with the goal of quantifying time-dependent crustal strain rates. Our prior work using only GNSS data has characterized the nature of the time-dependent strain rate field within California (Kim et al., 2021a,b; Kraner et al., 2018). In that work we show that this time dependent variation in strain is modulated by hydrologic loading.

Wave Gradiometry and Lithosphere Structure in North North America

We use surface wave data collected from the EarthScope USArray to apply wave gradiometry methods, which determines phase velocities and other characteristics of the wavefield, such as focusing and defocusing of energy. We also have shown that solutions to Helmholtz equation can be obtained from the gradiometry parameters to infer structural phase velocities (Liu and Holt, 2015). These results were used together with ambient noise tomography to infer the seismic velocity structure of the lithosphere in the contiguous U.S. region (Porter et al., 2016, 2017). I am interested in continuing this work in the future in collaboration with Professor Weisen Shen.


Selected Publications 

Sui, S, Shen, W., Holt, W., & Kim, J. (2023). Crustal architecture across Southern California and its implications on San Andreas Fault development. Geophysical Research Letters, 50, e2022GL101976.

Rasbury, E.T., G. Piccione, W.E. Holt, W.B. Ward, Potential for constraining sequence stratigraphy and cycle stratigraphy with U-Pb dating of carbonates, Earth-Science Reviews Volume 243, August 2023, 104495,

Bahadori, A., Holt, W.E., Feng, R. et al. (2022). Coupled influence of tectonics, climate, and surface processes on landscape evolution in southwestern North America. Nature Communications 13, 4437 (2022).

Bahadori, A., Holt, W.E., Austermann, J. et al. The role of gravitational body forces in the development of metamorphic core complexes (2022). Nature Communications 13, 5646 (2022).

Smiley, T.M., A. Bahadori, W.E. Holt, T.M. Rasbury, and C. Badgley (2022). Tectonics, topography, and mammal diversity dynamics in the Basin and Range. Nature Communications, In revision after Review.

Loughney, K. M.; Badgley, C.; Bahadori, A.; Holt, W. E.; Rasbury, E. T. (2021). Tectonic Influence on Cenozoic Mammal Richness and Sedimentation History of the Basin and Range, Western North America. Sci. Adv.2021, 7 (45), eabh4470.

Murray, K. D., Lohman, R. B., Kim, J., & Holt, W. E. (2021). An alternative approach for constraining 3D-displacements with InSAR, applied to a fault-bounded groundwater entrainment field in California. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 126, e2020JB021137. https://doi. org/10.1029/2020JB021137.

Kim, J., Holt, W. E., Bahadori, A., & Shen, W. (2021). Repeating nontectonic seasonal stress changes and a possible triggering mechanism of the 2019 Ridgecrest earthquake sequence in California. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 126, e2021JB022188. https://doi. org/10.1029/2021JB022188

Kim, J., Bahadori, A., & Holt, W.E. (2021). Crustal strain patterns associated with normal, drought, and heavy precipitation years in California. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 126, e2020JB019560. https://doi. org/10.1029/2020JB019560

Pazzaglia, Frank J, Helen Malenda, Matthew McGavick, Cody Raup, Mark Carter, Claudio Berti, Shannon Mahan, Michelle Nelson, Tammy Rittenour, Ron Counts, Jane Willenbring, Dru Germanoski, Steve Peters, William Holt, (2020), River terrace evidence of tectonic processes in the eastern North American plate interior, South Anna River, Virginia, The Journal of Geology, Accepted Nov. 4, 2020;

Bahadori, A., Holt, W.E. Geodynamic evolution of southwestern North America since the Late Eocene. Nat Commun 10, 5213 (2019).

Ghosh, A., Holt, W. E., & Bahadori, A. (2019). Role of large-scale tectonic forces in intraplate earthquakes of central and eastern North America. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 20, 2134–2156.

  1. Wang, W. E. Holt, A. Ghosh. (2019) Joint modeling of lithosphere and mantle dynamics: Sensitivity to viscosities within the lithosphere, asthenosphere, transition zone, and D" layers, Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, 293, doi:10.1016/j.pepi.2019.05.006.

Kraner, M. L. ††, Holt, W. E., & Borsa, A. A. (2018). Seasonal nontectonic loading inferred from cGPS as a potential trigger for the M6.0 South Napa earthquake. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 123.

Bahadori, A.,  Holt, W.E., and Rasbury, E.T., (2018), Reconstruction modeling of crustal thickness and paleotopography of western North America since 36 Ma: Geosphere, v. 14, no. 3, doi:10.1130/GES01604.1.

Porter, R., Hoisch, T., and W.E. Holt, (2017), The role of lower-crustal hydration in the tectonic evolution of the Colorado Plateau, Tectonophysics, 712-713, 221-231,

Porter, R., Y. Liu, and W. E. Holt (2016), Lithospheric records of orogeny within the continental U.S., Geophys. Res. Lett., 43, 144–153, doi:10.1002/2015GL066950.

Ramsay, J, Kohler, M.D., Davis, P.M., Wang, X.Holt, W.E., and Weeraratne, D.S. (2016), Anisotropy from SKS splitting across the Pacific-North America plate boundary offshore southern California,  Geophys. J. Int.  207, 244–258, doi: 10.1093/gji/ggw271

Finzel, E. S.,   L. M. Flesch, K. D. Ridgway, W. E. Holt, and   A. Ghosh ( 2015),   Surface motions and intraplate continental deformation in Alaska driven by mantle flow.   Geophys. Res. Lett., 42, 4350– 4358. doi:10.1002/2015GL063987.

Wang, X., W. E. Holt, and A. Ghosh (2015), Joint modeling of lithosphere and mantle dynamics: Evaluation of constraints from global tomography models, J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth, 120, 8633–8655, doi:10.1002/2015JB012188.

Liu, Y., and W. E. Holt (2015), Wave gradiometry and its link with Helmholtz equation solutions applied to USArray in the eastern U.S., J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth, 120, 5717 – 5746, doi:10.1002/2015JB011982.

Holt, W. E., and G. Shcherbenko (2013), Toward a Continuous Monitoring of the Horizontal Displacement Gradient Tensor Field in Southern California Using cGPS Observations from Plate Boundary Observatory (PBO), Seism. Res. Lett., vol. 84, No. 3, doi: 10785/0220130004.

Ghosh, A., W. E. Holt, and L. M. Wen (2013), Predicting the lithospheric stress field and plate motions by joint modeling of lithosphere and mantle dynamics, J. Geophys. Res: Solid Earth, 118, doi:10.1029/2012JB009516.

Ghosh, A., W. E. Holt, Plate Motions and Stresses from Global Dynamic Models, Science 335, 838 (2012), DOI: 10.1126/science.1214209.

Bruno, V., M. Mattia, M. Aloisi, M. Palano, F. Cannavò, and W. E. Holt (2012), Ground deformations and volcanic processes as imaged by CGPS data at Mt. Etna (Italy) between 2003 and 2008, J. Geophys. Res., 117, B07208, doi:10.1029/2011JB009114.

Davis, J. L., Y. Fialko, W. E. Holt, M. M. Miller, S. E. Owen, and M. E. Pritchard (Eds.), (2012), A Foundation for Innovation: Grand Challenges in Geodesy, Report from the Long-Range Science Goals for Geodesy Community Workshop, UNAVCO, Boulder, Colorado, 79 pp., 2012

Bird P, Kreemer C,  Holt, W. E. (2010), A Long-term forecast of Shallow Seismicity Based on the Global Strain Rate Map, Seismol. Res. Lett., V. 81, p. 184-194, DOI: 10.1785/gssrl.81.2.184.

Ozeren, S., Holt, W. E., (2010) The dynamics of the Aegean Region and Turkey, Geophys. Geophys. Jour. Int., 183, 1165-1184.

Ghosh, A., W. E. Holt, and L. M. Flesch (2009), Contribution of Gravitational Potential Energy Differences to the Global Stress Field, Geophys. Jour. Int., doi: 10.1111/j.1365-246X.2009.04326.x

Klein, E. C., L. M. Flesch, W. E. Holt, and A. J. Haines (2009), Evidence of long-term weakness on seismogenic faults in western North America from dynamic modeling, J.Geophys. Res., 114, doi:10.1029/2007JB005201.

Ghosh, A., W. E. Holt, L. Wen, A. J. Haines, and L. M. Flesch (2008), Joint modeling of lithosphere and mantle dynamics elucidating lithosphere-mantle coupling, Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L16309, doi:10.1029/2008GL034365.

Flesch, L., W. E. Holt, A.J. Haines, L. Wen, B. Shen-Tu, The Dynamics of Western North America: Stress Magnitudes and the Relative Role of Gravitational Potential Energy, Plate Interaction at the Boundary, and Basal Tractions, Geophys. Jour. Int., 169, 866-896, 2007.

Kreemer, C., Lavallee, D.A., Blewitt, G., Holt, W.E., On the stability of a geodetic no-net-rotation frame and its implication for the International Terrestrial Reference Frame, Geophys. Res. Lett., 33 (17): Art. No. L17306, SEP 7 2006.

Dimitrova, L., W. E. Holt, A John Haines, R. A. Schultz, Toward understanding the history and mechanisms of Martian faulting: The contribution of gravitational potential energy, Geophys. Res. Lett, 33 (8): DOI: 10.1029/2005GL025307, 2006.

Ghosh, A., W. E. Holt, A. J. Haines, and L.M. Flesch, Gravitational potential energy of the Tibetan Plateau and the forces driving the Indian Plate, Geology, 34, 321-324, 2006.

Holt, W. E., C. Kreemer, A. John Haines,  L  Estey and C. Meertens, D. Lavalee, Project helps constrain continental dynamics and seismic hazards, Eos, Vol. 86, No. 41, pgs. 383, 387, 2005.

Flesch, L.M., W.E. Holt, P.G. Silver, M. Stephenson, C.-Y. Wang, W.W. Chan, Constraining the extent of crust-mantle coupling in central Asia using GPS, geologic, and shear wave splitting data, Earth and Planetary Science letters, 238, 248-268, 2005.

Kreemer, C., W.E. Holt, and A. J. Haines, An integrated global model of present-day plate motions and plate boundary zones, Geophys, J. Int., 154(1), 8-34, 2003.

Silver, P.G., W. E. Holt, The mantle flow field beneath western North America, Science, 295, 1054-1057, 2002.

Geoffrey B., M. Coolbaugh, W. Holt, C. Kreemer, J. Davis and R. A. Bennett, (2002), Targeting of Potential Geothermal Resources in the Great Basin from Regional Relationships Between Geodetic Strain and Geological Structures, Geothermal Resources Council Transactions, Vol. 26, September 22-25, 2002.

Kreemer, C., W.E. Holt, and A. J. Haines, The global moment rate distribution within plate boundary zones, in 'Plate Boundary Zones', Geodynamics Series 30, eds. S. Stein and J. Freymueller, 2002.

Flesch, L.M., Haines, A. J., and W. E. Holt, The dynamics of the India-Eurasia Collision Zone, J. Geophys. Res., 106, 16,435-16,460, 2001.

Altamimi, Zuheir, Angermann, Detlef, Argus, Don, Blewitt, Geoff, Boucher, Claude, Chao, Ben, Drewes, Hermann, Eans, Richards, Feissel, Martine, Ferland, Remi, Herring, Tom, Holt, Bill, Johannson, Jan, Larson, Kristine, Ma, Chopo, Manning, John, Meertens, Chuck, Nothnagel, Axel, Pavlis, Erricos, Petit, Gerard, Ray, Jim, Ries, John, Scherneck, Hans-Georg, Sillard, Patrick, Watkins, Mike, The terrestrial reference frame and the dynamic Earth, Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union, 82 (25), p. 273, 278-279, 5 refs, 2001.

Kreemer, C., W. E. Holt, A no-net-rotation model of present-day surface motions, Geophys. Res. Lett., 28, 4407-4410, 2001.

Kreemer, C., J. Haines, W.E. Holt, G. Blewitt, and D. Lavallee, On the determination of a global strain rate model, Earth, Planets and Space, 52, 765-770, 2000.

Kreemer, C., and W.E. Holt, What caused the March 25, 1998 Antarctic plate earthquake?;  inferences from regional stress and strain rate fields, Geophys. Res. Lett., 27, 2297-2300, 2000.

Flesch, L. M., W. E. Holt, A. J. Haines, and B. Shen-Tu, The dynamics of the Pacific-North America plate boundary zone in the Western U. S., Science, 287, 834-836, 2000.

Kreemer, C., W. E. Holt, S. Goes, and R. Govers, Active deformation in eastern Indonesia and the Philippines from GPS and seismicity data, J. Geophys. Res., 105, 663-680, 2000.

Holt, W. E., Correlated crust and mantle strain fields in Tibet, Geology,28, 67-70, 2000.

Bernard, M., B. Shen-Tu, W. E. Holt, and D. Davis, Kinematics of active deformation in the Sulaiman Lobe and Range, Pakistan, J. Geophys. Res., 105, 13,253-13,279, 2000.

Holt, W. E., B. Shen-Tu, A. J. Haines, J. Jackson, On the determination of self-consistent strain rate fields within zones of distributed continental deformation, in History and Dynamics of Global Plate Motions, Geophys. Monogr. Ser., edited by M. Richards, R. Gordon, and R. Van der Hilst, p. 113 - 141, 2000.

Holt, W. E., N. Chamot-Rooke, X. Le Pichon, J. Haines, B. Shent-Tu, and J. Ren, The velocity field in Asia inferred from Quaternary fault slip rates and GPS observations, J. Geophys. Res., 105, 19,185-19,209, 2000.

Shen-Tu, B., W. E. Holt and A. J. Haines, Deformation kinematics in the western United States determined from Quaternary fault slip rates and recent geodetic data, J. Geophys. Res, 104, 28927-28955, 1999.

Clement, B., R. McCaffrey, and W. Holt, Neotectonics: Watching the earth move, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, 96, 14,205-14,205, 1999.

Shen-Tu, B., W. E. Holt and A. J. Haines, The contemporary kinematics of the Western United States determined from earthquake moment tensors, VLBI and GPS data, J. Geophys. Res., 103, 18,087-18,117, 1998.

Rasbury, E. T., G. N. Hanson, W. J. Meyers, W. E. Holt, R. H. Goldstein, and A. H. Saller, U-Pb Dates of Paleosols: Constraints on Late Paleozoic Cycle Durations and Boundary Ages, Geology, 26, 403-406, 1998.

Kreemer, C., K. P. Furlong, R. Govers, and W. E. Holt, Plate boundary deformation between the Pacific and North America in the Explorer region, Tectononophysics,  293, 225-238, 1998.

Haines, A. J., Jackson, J. A., Holt, W. E., Agnew, D. C., Representing distributed deformation by continuous velocity fields, Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences Science Report, 98/5, p. (variously paginated), illus. incl. tables, 1998. ISBN: 0-478-09615-1.

Nothard, S., J. Haines, J. Jackson, and W. E. Holt, Distributed deformation in the subducting lithosphere at Tonga, Geophys. J. Int., 127, 328-338, 1996.

Shen-Tu, B., and W. E. Holt, Interseismic intraplate deformation in northern Honshu and its relationship with the subduction of the Pacific Plate in the Japan trench, Geophys. Res. Lett., 23, 3103-3106, 1996.

Tinnon, M.††, W. E. Holt, and A. J. Haines, Velocity gradients in the northern Indian Ocean inferred from earthquake moment tensors and relative plate velocities, J. Geophys. Res., 100, 24,315-24,329, 1995.

Shen-Tu, B., W. E. Holt, and A. J. Haines, Intraplate deformation in the Japanese Islands: A Kinematic study of intraplate deformation at a convergent plate margin, J. Geophys. Res., 100, 24,275-24,293, 1995.

Jackson, J. A., A. J. Haines, and W. E. Holt, The Accommodation of Arabia-Eurasia plate convergence in Iran, J. Geophys. Res., 100, 15,205-15,219, 1995.

Holt, W. E., and A. J. Haines, The kinematics of northern South Island New Zealand determined from geologic strain rates, J. Geophys. Res., 100, 17,991-18,010, 1995.

Holt, W.E., M. Li, and A. J. Haines, Earthquake strain rates and instantaneous relative motions within central and east Asia, Geophys. Jour. Int., 122, 569-593, 1995.

Holt, W. E., Flow fields in the Tonga slab determined from the moment tensors of deep earthquakes, Geophys. Res. Lett., 22, 989-992, 1995.

Jackson, J., A.J. Haines, and W. E. Holt, A comparison of satellite laser ranging and seismicity data in the Aegean region, Geophys. Res. Lett., 21, 2849-2852, 1994.

Holt, W.E., and T.A. Stern, Subduction and foreland thrust loading: The late Tertiary development of Taranaki Basin, New Zealand, Tectonics, 13, 1068-1092, 1994.

Stern, T.A., and W. E. Holt, Platform Subsidence behind an active subduction zone, Nature, 368, 233-236, 1994.

Holt, W. E., and A. J. Haines, Reply to comment by R. Westaway on "Velocity fields in deforming Asia from the inversion of earthquake-released strains", Tectonics, 12, 1489-1491, 1993.

Haines, A.J. and W.E. Holt, A procedure to obtain the complete horizontal motions within zones of distributed deformation from the inversion of strain rate data, J.  Geophys. Res., 98, 12,057-12,082, 1993.

Holt, W.E., and A.J. Haines, Velocity fields in deforming Asia from the inversion of earthquake-released strains, Tectonics, 12, 1-20, 1993.

Stern, T.A., G.M. Quinlan, and W.E. Holt, Crustal dynamics associated with the formation of Wanganui Basin, New Zealand, South Pacific Sedimentary Basins. Sedimentary Basins of the World, 2, edited by P. F. Ballance (Series Editor: K.J. Hsu), 213-223, 1993.

Stern, T.A., G.M. Quinlan, and W.E. Holt, Basin formation behind an active subduction zone: three-dimensional flexural modelling of Wanganui Basin, New Zealand, Basin Research, 4, 197-214, 1992.

Stern, T. A., Quinlan, G. M., and Holt, W. E., 1992, Crustal shortening and basin formation behind an active subduction zone: Wanganui Basin, New Zealand: Basin Research, v. 4, p. 197–214.

Jackson, J., A.J. Haines, and W.E. Holt, Determination of the complete horizontal velocity field in the deforming Aegean Sea region from the moment tensors of earthquakes, J. Geophys. Res., 97, 17,657-17,684, 1992.

Holt W.E. and T.A. Stern, Sediment loading on the western margin of New Zealand: Implications for the strength of a continental margin, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 107, 523-538, 1991.

A.J. Haines and Holt, W. E., and, Kinematics of coastal deformation, EOS, 72, p148, 1991.

Holt, W.E., J.F. Ni, T.C. Wallace, and A.J. Haines, The active tectonics of the Eastern Himalayan Syntaxis and Surrounding Regions, J. Geophys. Res., 96, 14,595-14,632, 1991.

Holt, W.E., and T.C. Wallace, Crustal thickness and upper mantle velocities in the Tibetan Plateau region from the inversion of regional Pnl waveforms: Evidence for a thick upper mantle lid beneath southern Tibet, J. Geophys. Res., 95, 12,499-12,525, 1990.

Ni, J.F., M. Guzman-Speziale, M. Bevis, W.E. Holt, T.C. Wallace and W.R. Seager, Accretionary tectonics of Burma and the three-dimensional geometry of the Burma subduction zone, Geology, 17, 68-71, 1989.

Holt, W.E., and T.C. Wallace, A procedure for the joint inversion of regional and teleseismic long-period body waves, Geophys. Res. Lett., 14, 903-906, 1987.

Holt, W.E., C. Chase and T. Wallace, Reply to comment by C. L. V. Aiken on " Crustal structure from three-dimensional modeling of a metamorphic core complex: A model for uplift, Santa Catalina - Rincon mountains, Arizona", Geology, 15, 979-980, 1987.

Holt, W.E., C. Chase and T. Wallace, Crustal structure from three-dimensional gravity modeling of a metamorphic core complex: A model of uplift, Santa Catalina-Rincon mountains, Arizona, Geology, 14, 927-930, 1986.

Wallace, T.  C., C.  G.  Chase, W.  E.  Holt, and J.W. Hiller,  A geophysical study of the crustal structure near a metamorphic core  complex, Frontiers in Geology and Ore Deposits of Arizona and the Southwest, Ariz. Geol. Soc. Dig., 16, 153-158, 1986.


Ph.D. student or post-doc supervised by William Holt

††Undergraduate Student supervised by William Holt