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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Active Rift research: The Corinth Rift, Greece

Currently Active: 

The Corinth Rift is one of the most seismically active regions of Europe. It is actively extending and in the very first stages of the rifting process that ultimately generates new ocean basins. We are investigating evolution of the rift, its hazard potential and the interplay between tectonics, sedimentation, climate and sea level in an active rift using a variety of geological and geophysical techniques.

Research in SOES in the Corinth Rift has focused on 3 main aspects since 2000: Analysing fault slip rates and earthquake history of major rift faults using marine terrace uplift and fault trenching; marine geophysics surveys to image syn-rift sediments and fault networks in the Gulf of Corinth; and ocean drilling to sample syn-rift basin sediments and provide sediment ages. We have developed models for the evolution of the Corinth Rift specifically and for the first phase of rifting in general at very high resolution, we have quantified slip rates of major faults and the history of development of the rift fault network and depocentre system, and we have shown how rapidly rift systems can change by resolving chronostratigraphy to millenial timescales.

Primary Projects:

  • High resolution bathymetry and seismic reflection survey of the western Gulf of Corinth (2003) and integration and interpretation of all seismic reflection data within the Gulf of Corinth (2015).
  • IODP Expedition 381 drilling, coring and logging in the Gulf of Corinth Rift (2017).

Objectives and Key Results:

  • To resolve the slip rates of major active faults within the Corinth rift, with the potential to generate large damaging earthquakes. Fault slip rates were published by Bell et al. (2009, Pure ID 13191999).
  • To develop a new chronostratigraphic model for the Corinth rift sedimentary sequence and to resolve rift fault networks and geometry. A new model for the evolution of the rift, of the rift depositional centres, and of the fault network was published in Nixon et al. (2016, Pure ID 15086243). This was the first model at this level of spatial and temporal resolution for an active rift system.
  • To constrain how the deformation is distributed in time and space and on what timescale faults evolve in a young rift, using new drilling data integrated with existing geophysical and onshore data. Following drilling in 2017, initial results are published in Shillington et al. (2019, International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 381 Preliminary Report) and McNeill et al. (2019, Proceedings of the International Ocean Discovery Program).
  • To determine the evolution of a rift-controlled, closed drainage system in time and space at high temporal resolution (20-50kyr) and the relative impact of tectonics and climate on sediment flux. We discovered from drill cores that the volume of sediment filling the rift basin increased dramatically when the Earth was experiencing glaciated conditions and that the environmental conditions in the rift basin changed considerably as sea level fluctuated and the basin repeatedly switched from open sea to a lake. These initial results are published in McNeill et al. (2019, Pure ID: 38024193).

Funding Dates

Several projects overall.

NERC funding linked to IODP drilling for L. McNeill from October, 2017 to October, 2022

IODP-funded IODP Expedition 381, with operations active from October, 2017 to March, 2018

Funding Provider

NERC funding for McNeill for IODP participation:

Past NERC funding for data collection.

IODP funding of Drilling Expedition 381 Corinth Rift

Faults and sediment thickness in Corinth rift basin last 600,000 year
Faults and sediment thickness in Corinth rift basin last 600,000 year
Example of sediment core collected during Exp. 381.
Example of sediment core collected during Exp. 381.
Drill ship Fugro Synergy used for the Expedition 381 in 2017
Drill ship Fugro Synergy used for the Expedition 381 in 2017

Key Publications

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