The Anglo-Ethiopian Society
Lecture - Witnessing the birth of an ocean: Rifting in the Afar Depression, Ethiopia, Eritrea & Djibouti
Dr. James Hammond
Wednesday 25th November 2015
6:30pm, The Warburg Institute, Woburn Square, London WC1H 0AB - Public lecture (all welcome)
The East-Africa rift is the world's premium natural laboratory for studying how continents break apart. Here, over the last 30 million years, a new tectonic boundary has been formed giving rise to the volcanoes and earthquakes that make up one of the world's most dramatic landscapes. The Afar Depression is the northernmost extent of the East Africa Rift, where it meets two other rifts that form the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. This so called triple junction is where the final stages of continental breakup are occurring.
In September 2005 a dramatic event led to a renewed interest in this part of the world. A series of earthquakes culminated in a small volcanic eruption, but this masked much bigger changes deeper in the Earth's crust. A 60 km long sheet or wall of magma (called a dike), had been injected into the Earth from depth in just a 2 week period. This caused the ground to deform, causing 8 metres of sideways movement and 2 metres of subsidence. This was the biggest event of its kind since the 1970's and the first in the era of satellite and modern day geophysics. It presented a unique opportunity to study the processes by which oceanic crust is formed. In response a UK/US/Ethiopian/Eritrean team led an 8 year study to monitor and understand the driving forces behind this region.
In this talk Dr. Hammond will provide an insight in what it is like to work in one of the world's most inhospitable deserts, a tale of camels, volcanic eruptions and science diplomacy and he will present some of the key results from their work that have given an unprecedented insight into how the death of a continent leads to the birth of an ocean.
Dr. James Hammond is a Research Fellow at the Department of Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College, London.