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

Research project: RiftVolc - Rift Volcanism: Past, Present and Future

Currently Active: 

Rift Volcanism: Past, Present and Future aims to understand the origin and evolution of rift valley extension and volcanism. The project focuses on using a range of disciplines such as geophysics, structural geology and volcanology in the East African rift system (e.g. Ethiopia, Tanzania, the Red Sea), but also extensional systems elsewhere. 


RiftVolc is built around a NERC funded large grant which aims to research past, present and future volcanic and seismic activity in different sectors of the East African rift system (Tanzania, Ethiopia, Afar, Red Sea). The project also draws on several NERC funded PhD studentships (SPITFIRE and INSPIRE), and additional funding from the University of Southampton; KAUST, ANR France, and from Industry. Project partners include the BGS, the Universities of Edinburgh, Bristol, Oxford, Cambridge, Leeds, Imperial, Florence, Pisa, Strasbourg, Sorbonne, Addis Ababa, the Geological Survey of Ethiopia, KAUST, Allana Potash, Reykjavik Geothermal, and Beach Energy.

The team at the University of Southampton primarily focus on:

  1. Passive seismology - collection and analysis of passive seismic data from new and existing dense networks of seismic stations in contrasting sections of East Africa such as the rifts in Tanganyika, Ethiopia, and Afar. The data is used to understand the pattern and origin of earthquakes, and also used to image the interior of the Earth.
  2. Structural geology - the use of high-resolution satellite images, LiDAR data, and fieldwork to quantitatively map, characterize and interpret rift valley faulting and volcanism. We also use industry acquired seismic reflection data to image subsurface faults and sedimentary basins.
  3. Volcanology - we use geochemistry, petrology. geochronology and geological mapping to understand the origin and evolution of rift valley volcanoes. These analyses also help to characterize the likely behavior of volcanoes in space and time and therefore help to quantify volcanic hazards.

Our team work together to combine results from various disciplines to understand the interaction of extensional and magmatic processes during the breakup of the continents.

RiftVolc 1
Mural on a school near Tullu-Moye volcano in Ethiopia showing the East African rift system study area, and a cross section of rift valley processes. The moral was drawn by the RiftVolc outreach team lead by Karen Fontijn at University of Oxford.
RiftVolc 2
3D model of the Boset-Berichia volcanic system in Ethiopia. Holocene lava flows are cut by young fault networks.
RiftVolc 3
The team of RiftVolc scientists installing a new seismic station in Ethiopia.


Funding providers:

Funding dates: October 2014 - present

Key Publications

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