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Research Fellows Directory

John Elliott

Dr John Elliott

Research Fellow


University of Leeds

Research summary

My research addresses where and how the Earth’s crust accommodates and releases the tectonic stress associated with plate motions. I achieve this through measuring the deformation of the crust using the latest techniques in satellite geodesy, and integrating these measurements with seismology, remote sensing and field studies of active faulting. I want to understand the relationship between earthquakes, crustal deformation and landscape evolution. In particular, I am interested in addressing the problems of faults and earthquakes a) as a natural hazard and b) as a key mechanism for the growth of mountains and the role they play in shaping the deformation of the continents over geological time.

Earthquakes are a consequence of the slow build-up of pressure within the Earth’s crust which must eventually be released – often suddenly in a matter of seconds, which is what results in the rapid shaking of the ground in an earthquake. This build-up of pressure ultimately comes from the forces of the colliding tectonic plates and the pressure from mountains which are built up in the process. In any given area, the interval between earthquakes may be hundreds or even thousands of years. Therefore, for regions that now contain cities of millions, the population when the last major earthquake struck would only have been thousands. Understanding mountain growth and the location of active faults will be of benefit to society by informing the sustainable development of cities built on top of or adjacent to major faults (of which there are over 50 capitals exposed to such hazard, and they occur in some of the poorest countries in the world).

My research will have impact on these challenges, as it is concerned with determining where this pressure is building up to earthquakes, how fast is it accumulating and how big can these earthquakes could potentially be.

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

The Rise of Mountains

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Dates: Oct 2016 - Sep 2021

Value: £509,577.61