Monitoring our Hazardous Earth from Space

Speaker: Professor Tim Wright

Date: 23 March 2017
Start Time: 7 pm
End Time: 8:30 pm

Venue: 27/29 South Lambeth Road, Vauxhall, London, SW8 1SZ

Satellite Earth Observation technology has transformed the way we respond to and prepare for earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In this lecture, I will discuss the ways that scientists within the Centre for the Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tectonics (COMET: use satellite technology. I will show examples from recent earthquakes in Nepal and New Zealand, and eruptions in Ethiopia and South America. I will take you beneath the Earth’s surface into the plumbing systems of volcanoes and the deep roots of fault zones, showing how satellite are changing our views of how the Earth works. I will end by discussing the future for this technology and the role of scientists in helping society become more resilient to our hazardous planet.


Professor Tim Wright has been at Leeds since 2006, initially as a Royal Society University Research Fellow and (since 2012) as Professor of Satellite Geodesy. His work has been at the forefront of developing the use of satellite radar interferometry (InSAR) for measuring tectonic and volcanic deformation. Major achievements include the first demonstration that inter-seismic strain can be measured using InSAR, in this case for the North Anatolian Fault; the investigation of a series of major earthquakes using geodesy, seismology and geomorphology, including Bam (Iran, 2003), Denali (Alaska, 2002), and Izmit (Turkey, 1999); the mapping and modelling of precursory inflation at a volcanic centre (Dabbahu, Ethiopia), and the subsequent discovery of a major rifting episode in Afar, Ethiopia. He has published more than 50 articles in major international journals, and his work is highly cited. He led the NERC-funded Afar Rift Consortium, a £3M project that is using a wide range of geophysical, geochemical and geologic techniques to investigate how the crust grows at divergent plate boundaries, and co-leads LICS, a NERC large grant to “Look Inside the Continents from Space”. In 2006, he was awarded the William Smith Fund of the Geological Society, and a Philip Leverhulme Prize, in 2014 he received the AGU Geodesy Section Award, and in 2015 he was the British Geophysical Association’s Bullerwell lecturer and received the Rosenstiel Award from the University of Miami. He is director of the NERC Centre for the Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tectonics (COMET), and coordinates the geodynamics/tectonics research group at Leeds.

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