Exploring the Earth’s crust – British-German cooperation in controlled source seismology projects

Posted by pkm at Jan 22, 2015 04:55 PM |
Claus Prodehl - Geophysical Institute, KIT (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology), Karlsruhe, Germany

Active British – German cooperation to explore the Earth’s Crust using controlled source seismology dates back to the end of World War II, when the British Army destroyed German fortifications on the island of Heligoland with a very large amount of simultaneously detonated ammunition.  The pre-war collaboration of Pat Willmore with German scientists in Göttingen and Stuttgart was re-established, enabling these explosions to be used as active sources to explore the Earth’s crust throughout Germany in 1947.  Cooperation throughout western Europe continued when French scientists initiated the first major seismic exploration in the Western Alps in 1954 and years following.

In 1973 David Bamford visited Karlsruhe for one year and detected anisotropy in the uppermost mantle using the Pn data from the dense German network of seismic quarry blast based, seismic refraction profiles. David Bamford’s visit to Karlsruhe laid the foundation for the planning and execution of LISPB in 1974, a 1000 km long line extending from the English Channel to the northern coast of Scotland, exploring the Earth’s crust and lower lithosphere beneath Britain.  The project was headed by scientists from Birmingham and Edinburgh as well as from Karlsruhe, but it involved the participation of personnel from all university departments and agencies active in seismological research in Britain as well as in Germany.  The cooperation of Britain and Germany continued with joint participation in the international explosion seismology investigation of Scandinavia in 1979 along a 2000 km long line along the Baltic Sea and extending to the North Cape, exploring the Earth’s crust and lithosphere down to 400 km depth.  FENNOLORA was subsequently declared as being the northern part of the European GeoTraverse.  British-German cooperation continued within this framework, when in 1986 the central European section between Genoa, Italy, and Kiel, Germany was covered by an international explosion seismology campaign.

About 1984, a study group was initiated to compare individual research results from various rift systems. The group involved scientists from North America and western Europe, many of whom were subsequently involved in the Kenya Rift Seismic Project (KRISP), including representatives from the University of Leicester and the University of Karlsruhe. The group became known as the CREST working group, an acronym of Continental Rifts: Evolution, Structure, and Tectonics, finally publishing a book at Elsevier with this title, edited by K.H. Olsen.  The personal connection of scientists at Birmingham, Leicester and Karlsruhe in particular, finally led to the establishment of KRISP which, based on earlier crustal seismic investigations of Birmingham and Leicester in Kenya since 1969, and on the seismological research in East Africa of Karlsruhe, culminated in a series of major international seismic campaigns in the East African rift in Kenya in 1985, 1990 and 1994.  This major project of Leicester / Birmingham and Karlsruhe, however, would not have been possible without the strong involvement of U.S. scientists (UTEP, Stanford, Purdue, and UCLA).  The active project component of crustal and uppermost-mantle profiling using large seismic charges, carried out in 1990 and 1994 was strongly supported by the expertise of Irish colleagues from the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS), the majority of the seismic recording equipment being from the U.S. KRISP was not only an active-source experiment, but also included passive teleseismic research projects involving the establishment of temporary networks of seismological stations deployed for long time periods, and recording far-distant natural events in 1985, 1990 and 1993 in a study of the upper mantle structure beneath the southern part of the Kenya rift.

Indirectly, British and German co-operation resulted in the first Irish seismic refraction project carried out by DIAS and Karlsruhe, which, however, would not have been possible without Martin Bott’s (University of Durham) initiative of exploring the Earth’s crust beneath northern England using a long line of sea shots in both the North and Irish Seas, the Caledonian Suture Seismic Profile (CSSP).  Additional shots in the Irish Sea enabled its extension into Ireland, on the ICSSP.  In 1999, the close cooperation between British and German research institutes continued in a Karlsruhe research project in Romania, the University of Leicester supporting the Karlsruhe investigation of the Vrancea region in the eastern Carpathians of Romania with seismic recording equipment and personnel.

Reference: Prodehl, C., and Mooney, W.D., 2012: Exploring the Earth‘s Crust – History and Results of Controlled-Source Seismology. Geological Society of America Memoir 208, 764 p.

Filed under:

Share this page: