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When Continents Collide: Active Deformation and Sesmic Hazard

Since 1900, 35 earthquakes worldwide have each killed at least 10,000 people. Of these, 26 were in the Alpine-Himalayan seismic belt – a broad “crumple zone” where the African, Arabian and Indian tectonic plates collide with Europe and Asia. Most of these deadly earthquakes were caused by the rupture of faults that had not previously been identified.

Although giving short-term predictions for earthquakes seems impossible, during the long periods between events the ground surface around seismic faults steadily warps in response to tectonic forces. Measuring the slow build-up of this deformation is a powerful new tool for assessing and predicting the risk of earthquakes.  In this lecture, Tim Wright, a geophysicist at the University of Leeds, will describe how we can use the latest satellites to make extraordinarily accurate measurements of how continents deform, how we can use this information to understand where damaging earthquakes are likely to occur, and how the results can be used to reduce the devastating impacts of earthquakes.

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Tim Wright

University of Leeds

Tim Wright is Professor of Satellite Geodesy at the University of Leeds and Director of the Natural Environment Research Council’s Centre for the Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tectonics (COMET). His work has been at the forefront of developing the use of satellite radar for measuring tectonic and volcanic deformation. He was the first to show that the slow accumulation of tectonic strain around active faults could be measured with satellite radars, and he is currently leading a major project using the latest satellites to map how all the continents are deforming. 

In 2006, he was awarded the William Smith Fund of the Geological Society, and a Philip Leverhulme Prize, in 2014 he receives the AGU Geodesy Section Award, and in 2015 he will deliver the Bullerwell Lecture of the British Geophysical Association.              


Event Details

Date: 25 February 2015

Venue: The Geological Society, Burlington House, London

Speaker: Tim Wright


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