IAS Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor Elias Lewi, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

Elias Lewi

Monitoring Ethiopia's Dynamic Crust with Satellite Geodesy

19 October - 19 November 2017

Dr Elias Lewi is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Geophysics, Space Science and Astronomy at Addis Ababa University. He is responsible for installing and running the Ethiopian National GPS Network, which is used for the definition of the national reference frame, infrastructure development, geohazard monitoring and tectonic studies. His research focuses on using high-precision gravity and geodetic measurements, such as InSAR and GPS, to understand tectonic activity and volcano deformation. He also acts as a consultant for ground water exploration for various governmental organisations in Ethiopia. The University of Bristol and Addis Ababa University have had a long and productive collaboration, and this visit by Dr. Elias Lewi is the latest in a ongoing partnership.

Ethiopia straddles the East African Rift. This zone of intense active volcanism and seismicity represents a significant hazard to the local population, but one that is very poorly characterised. For example, a recent world bank assessment of global volcanic hazard showed that 49 Ethiopian volcanoes were categorised as having the highest level of uncertainty in terms of their hazard level. Earthquake hazard is known to be high within the rift valley itself, but a recent deformation study showed that strain is also accumulating on the high plateau, suggesting there could be significant underestimated hazard away from the rift, including for major cities. Landslides represent a further risk to life, livelihood and infrastructure, particularly in the Ethiopian highlands. Furthermore, the security of water supply is also a major concern in Ethiopia, with increasing the use of groundwater resources. High-resolution, 3D maps of surface motions and strains are a first-order data set that can be used to investigate these societal challenges.

The University of Bristol has a long-term relationship with geophysicists at Addis Ababa University, which has included several flagship research programs, such as the Afar Rift Consortium (2007- 2014), and the current Rift Volcanism Large Grant (2014-2019). This project forms an important part of that continuing long-term collaborative relationship. The aim of this visiting professorship is for collaborators from the University of Bristol, Addis Ababa University and the University of Leeds to combine existing data to produce a new high-resolution map of the dynamic surface motions throughout Ethiopia. This integrated data set will be fundamentally new and will be used to address pressing challenges in understanding of the hazards in Ethiopia associated with volcanism, earthquakes, and landslides, and can be used to assess the depletion of groundwater resources.

During his stay in Bristol, Dr Lewi will be hosted by Dr Juliet Biggs, (Earth Sciences) and the Cabot Institute. Elias will be giving the following seminars during his stay: