III Geophysical Geomorphology

Principal aims: To constrain the links between geophysical processes such as earthquakes and the geomorphic processes they trigger in order to explain and anticipate patterns of mass wasting during and after earthquakes (responsible for half of all fatalities due to earthquakes in mountain areas) and use these patterns to study earthquake mechanisms where detailed instrumental records are absent (most places).

To revolutionise monitoring of surface processes by application of seismological techniques, overcoming severe limitations in time-resolution of air- and space-borne remote sensing that obstruct understanding of the link between meteorological drivers and erosional response.

The group develops two major and distinct research efforts within this theme. One focuses on seismically induced erosion, aiming to predict patterns of triggered landsliding from earthquake mechanisms and models of seismic wave propagation; to invert observed erosion patterns for insights into seismic processes; and to constrain orogen mass balances on seismic cycle scales. The other focuses on development of a seismological approach to monitoring of geomorphological processes, and its application in studies of process mechanics and landscape response to changing boundary conditions. This approach uses the acoustic signals of mass transport at the Earth’s surface to determine the location, timing, magnitude and nature of geomorphic process events. Unlike any other remote sensing technique, it has a temporal resolution that allows the evaluation of geomorphic activity in the context of meteorological conditions. Therefore, it is the key to understanding landscape response to climate change, as well as many other aspects of earth surface dynamics.