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How much do we know about the ground beneath our feet?


Published by University of Leicester Press Office for University of Leicester in Environment and also in Communities

‘A View of the Continental Crust: Integrating Geology and Seismology’

Tuesday 26 February at 5.30pm

Lecture Theatre 1, Ken Edwards Building, University of Leicester main campus

Free and open to the public

A geophysics expert will explain how combining scientific approaches can tell us more about the continental crust – the parts of the earth’s surface not covered by the oceans.

Professor Richard England, Professor of Geophysics at the University of Leicester’s Department of Geology, will give his inaugural lecture ‘A View of the Continental Crust: Integrating Geology and Seismology’ on Tuesday, February 26.

The lecture will explore what is known about the crust from the combination of geological and geophysical observations.

Professor England said: “About two-fifths of the Earth surface is covered by continental crust but arguably we actually know less about it than we know about the crust underlying the oceans, yet it is the crust that the human population are capable of living on, with all its associated hazards. This lecture will explore what we know about the crust through integrating geological and geophysical observations.

“Geological observations focus on deducing the properties of the crust from the rocks visible at or near the surface. The conventional view from these studies is that it is shaped by weathering and erosion processes at the surface, it is deformed by faulting that produces earthquakes and new material is added by volcanic processes.

“Seismology has proved a powerful tool to probe the deeper parts of the crust. By adapting techniques used to explore for hydrocarbons and by recording and analysing earthquake records seismologists have been able to explore the deepest parts of the crust and have made some surprising discoveries.

“It is possible to show that new material is added to the base of the crust, fundamentally changing its properties and evolution. This provides an explanation for topographic change that occurs within the continental crust for which there may be no obvious cause at the surface.

“This process, known as underplating, has almost certainly shaped the geological map of the UK, is a possible cause of the stresses released as earthquakes and is arguably playing a role in the gradual south-eastward tilting of the UK at a rate amplifying the effects of sea-level rise predicted by models of global warming.”

Professor England has lectured in Geophysics at the University of Leicester since 2000, and was integral in the development of the world-leading SEIS-UK group at the University, which is part of the NERC-funded Geophysical Equipment Facility.

He has held positions on the grant-awarding panels of the Natural Environment Research Council and the Irish Research Council. He was awarded the Clough memorial award for his contributions to the understanding of Scottish geology.

Professor England grew up in Coventry and graduated in Geology and Mineralogy from the University of Oxford in 1985 before taking a PhD in structural geology and geochemistry at Durham.

Prior to coming to the University of Leicester, he did post-doctorate research at Durham, carried out research with BIRPS (British Institutions Reflection Profiling Syndicate) at the University of Cambridge, and then formed an industrially funded consortium to study the western continental shelf of the UK and Ireland.

The lecture will be held in Lecture Theatre 1 of the Ken Edwards Building, University of Leicester main campus, at 5.30pm on Tuesday, February 26. The event is free and open to the public.


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