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When Continents Collide: Active Deformation and Seismic Hazard

25 February 2015
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Geological Society Events
Burlington House, London
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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.

Watch the Video


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 information

The talk will be given twice on the same day, once at 3pm and once at 6pm – please note that if you would like to attend the talks, the 3pm matinee generally has more availability. The talks will be exactly the same in the afternoon and evening.

Entry to the lectures is free to all, but places are allocated on a ballot basis.

The February ballot is now closed due to an oversubscription of entries for both lectures. To receive notifications of when the ballot for future lectures is open please email to register your details.

Programme – 3pm talk
2:30pm Tea & Coffee
3pm Lecture begins
4pm Event ends

Programme – 6pm talk
5:30pm Tea & Coffee
6pm Lecture begins
7pm Short drinks reception
8pm Event ends

Please note that the doors to Burlington House will close at 6.15pm and you will not be able to enter the building after this time.

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The Geological Society

The Geological Society
Burlington House