The highly variable shape of the earth's surface including ocean basins, mountain ranges, and volcanoes is the most dramatic evidence that powerful, dynamic processes operate in the earth's mantle, lithosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere and atmosphere. The nature of these processes as well as their non-linear interaction among each other becomes increasingly important because the fast growing population, the rising number of megacities, the complex communication, transport and supply networks - all of which have resulted in a dramatically increased vulnerability of modern society - require a much improved understanding of Earth processes and its risks.
The Institute of Geophysics of the University of Hamburg is committed to studying the interplay between Earth processes (please see our White Paper) like
- tectonics and neotectonics,
- basin formation, and
- sediment-ocean interaction.
thereby improving our understanding of how the Earth works. These processes operate on very different times scales (from fractions of a seconds in case of earthquakes to millions of years in the case of basin formation), requiring a very diverse spectrum of observational methods as well as modeling techniques. Studying these processes we are especially interested in
- Sources of seismic energy, how faults rupture, and how fluids influence the rupture process.
- Propagation of elastic waves inside the earth.
- The dynamics of sedimentary systems and the development of resources therein.
- The interplay between processes like sedimentation, fluid and gas migration, salt tectonic and geodynamics.
- Mid-ocean ridge formation and the structure of the oceanic crust.
- Subduction zone processes, especially the storage and release of fluids.
- Processes inside volcanic systems, like magma filled dike ascent, magma accumulation and different mechanisms of forcing volcanic eruptions.
- Global element cycles.
- Hydrocarbon detection.
For more details on the specific research projects tied to these different topics please have a look at the current and finished projects listed on this page.
Given that 70% of the Earth surface are covered by oceans and that about half of the worlds population lives close to costal regions, addressing the topics listed above has a high socio-economical priority and requires extensive marine and in some cases land based research, fundamental theoretical investigations, and analog as well as numerical modeling. To study the above mentioned processes we work in different geological environments like
- continental margins (Peru, Levantine),
- young and active marine environments (Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea, Iceland),
- basins (North-German Basin, eastern Mediterranean),
- volcanic arcs (Java),
- mid-ocean ridges (Atlantic and Pacific).
For a successful operation in these areas the Institute of Geophysics holds a wealth of instruments and expertise to carry out research expeditions on land or at sea. The instruments are designed to image the subsurface with seismic techniques, to measure the magnetic and gravity field, to analyze earthquakes, or to determine tilting of the sea floor. Some of these instruments are prototypes which were developed in the institute. Aside from these field based experiments the institute has a laboratory for analog modeling to study processes like dike propagation, subduction zone dynamics and volcanic processes. In addition we develop numerical models to study the interdependencies of various processes in the Earth system and to test our hypotheses. Many of the above mentioned processes leave a certain signature in the subsurface or are combined with seismic activity which can be imaged by seismic methods. Therefore a lot of expertise has been gained in order to get the best possible image of the earth's interior and to determine its physical properties by means of seismic waves.
Wave Inversion Technology
The Wave Inversion Technology (WIT) consortium is an international network of research teams which was founded by Prof. Peter Hubral in 1997 at the University of Karlsruhe. The consortium is funded by several componies of the hydro carbon industry. The goal of the WIT investigations is to provide leading edge research for seismic exploration. Since 2007 the scientific and administrative direction is at the University of Hamburg. Further information is available on the WIT homepage and here.