UoB Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor Rowena Lohman, Cornell University, USA

Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor Rowena Lohman

Expanding our ability to measure human-induced ground displacements from space: applications to induced earthquakes

7 Jan - 26 July 2019


Rowena Lohman uses combinations of space-based geodesy and other types of satellite imagery to study how the Earth’s surface changes in response to earthquakes, landslides, and human activity. She is particularly interested in studying what regions along faults do in between earthquakes, and how this changes in areas of geothermal power generation, mining, and injection/extraction of subsurface fluids. She has published papers on transient and triggered deformation episodes in a wide range of tectonic environments, as well as on the effects of logging/clearing of vegetation on the types of imagery used in tectonic geodesy. She is involved at the national level in efforts to maintain and enhance data access and infrastructure that facilitates remote sensing research; ranging from methods for querying data catalogs, processing of satellite imagery, and the interpretation of observed signals with finite element models and the associated inverse methods. She received a B.S. in geology and a Ph.D. degree in geophysics, both from the California Institute of Technology. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and then at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She has been a faculty member at Cornell within the Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences since 2007.

Project Summary

There is a growing appreciation that anthropogenic activities significantly impact the earth system. Extraction of material (either minerals or hydrocarbon liquids) can result in subsidence that is sometimes dramatic. Injection of waste fluids for subsurface storage (e.g. oilfield waste fluids, or CO2 for carbon sequestration) can  produce surface uplift. Both extraction and injection processes have been observed to trigger earthquakes of significant magnitude. Increasingly, we can monitor these subsurface activities with a constellation of new satellites and airborne observations. The challenge is to isolate anthropogenic ground displacements from natural phenomena and other sources of error so that we can not only identify anthropogenic activity, but characterize changes over time and plan for mitigation, if necessary. I propose a research proposal to develop
the capability to quantitatively estimate (with uncertainties) the spatial and temporal characteristics of ground displacements associated with anthropogenic activity in challenging terrains (e.g., areas with vegetation, agriculture, snow cover) that are of great societal interest. Specifically, I focus on areas in the central US where increased amounts of wastewater injection from hydrocarbon production have resulted in dramatic changes to the frequency of earthquakes.

During her stay in Bristol, Prof. Lohman will be hosted by Dr. James Verdon (Earth Sciences)