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Tectonics from Above: Recent Advances in the use of High-resolution Topography and Imagery

13 March 2015
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Geological Society Events
Royal Astronomical Society, Burlington House, London
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Topography is one of the most important geophysical observations that can be made at the Earth's surface, but often one that is taken for granted. Recent advances in topographic measurements have significantly improved the spatial resolutions now available to earth scientists; 

  • from the 90 m resolution SRTM global DEM widely used now, 
  • through the 12 m resolution WorldDEM about to be completed (using data recorded by the TanDEM-X radar mission), 
  • to the 1 m DEMs that may be obtained through LiDAR and space/aerial stereo-photogrammetric measurements. 

Future use of drone technology offers the potential of even higher resolution DEMs from both LiDAR and multi-stereo optical images.

Combining the new high-resolution topography with high-resolution imagery allows the Earth's surface to be explored in a virtual environment. For example, subtle geomorphic features preserved in the landscape can enable us to determine the slip that occurred in recent and past earthquakes. In addition, three-dimensional analysis of high-resolution topographic and optical imagery can significantly enhance the impact and efficiency of geological field measurements; geological dating of geomorphic features is essential in quantifying how faults evolve through time. 

Furthermore, comparison of pre- and post-earthquake datasets now allows the retrieval of the full 3D deformation field produced by earthquakes (including post-seismic deformation occurring after the earthquake).

Meeting aims

The aims of the meeting are two-fold. First, to expose to a wider audience the new data sets (e.g. Tandem-X, LiDAR, Pleiades imagery), and the new methods for generating and analysing these data sets (e.g. photogrammetric DEM extraction, point cloud manipulation), that are currently available for measuring continental topography and surface displacements. 

Second, to provide a forum for the discussion of new tectonic applications of high-resolution topography and imagery.


  • Richard Walker (Oxford)
  • Ed Nissen (Colorado School of Mines)
  • James Hollingsworth (Arup) 
  • and Barry Parsons (Oxford)

Further information

Registration will take place at the door, but it would be helpful for planning purposes if anyone intending to attend the meeting could notify Maria Petrunova.

Anyone wishing to present a poster in the lunchtime poster session should email a title and short abstract to Barry Parson

Event sponsors