NWO Grant Awarded to Mark van der Meijde

Deeper Understanding of Africa; Modelling of the African Lithosphere Combining GOCE and Seismology

GOCE data shows tiny variations in Earth’s gravity. (Credits: ESA)

The General Board of the Division for the Earth and Life Sciences (GB-ALW) has decided to award a grant of Euro 318.443 for the application in the 2011 call for the User Support Programme Space Research, subprogramme Earth Observation entitled Deeper understanding of Africa; Modelling of the African Lithosphere Combining GOCE and Seismology to Mark van der Meijde, Associate Professor, Earth Systems Analysis department of the Faculty ITC, University of Twente.

The NWO Division for the Earth and Life Sciences (ALW) is cooperating with the Netherlands Space Office (NSO) in the programme User Support Space Research. The aim of this programme is to provide support to researchers working in the Netherlands during the (preparation for) use of scientific infrastructure in space for the purpose of high quality research. The programme is financed by the ministries for Education, Culture and Science and Transport, Public Works and Water Management.

Summary of the research
The research will focus on innovative applications and combined analysis of GOCE satellite gravity data with seismological data in Africa. Variations in earth's topography and distribution of mass within the earth alter the Earth’s static gravitational field. This field can therefore be used to resolve the compositional, thermal, and mechanical structure of the deep crust and upper mantle, and to elucidate fundamental aspects of tectonic processes. Of great importance in African tectonics is the role of the major cratons. Along their boundaries successive cycles of extension, rifting, and renewed accretion have taken place. The cratonic roots have steep sides, extending in some cases to ≥300 km depth. They therefore play a crucial role in African tectonics and understanding of their thickness, shape, and extent provide insight in earlier and ongoing mantle dynamics.

The research will focus on yet unexplained Earth structure on the borders of the Congo and Kalahari craton. Insight in the lateral and vertical extent of these cratons into the lithosphere will reveal the main source for this anomalously thick crust. These insights will be obtained through analysis of 3D gradient GOCE satellite gravity data and integration with surface wave tomography. For this purpose a unique seismological network will be installed to provide unprecedented seismological coverage to strengthen the satellite gravity inversons and provide unique geodynamical and compositional information on a previously poorly studied region.

Mark van der MeijdeMark van der Meijde has an MSc degree in earth sciences from Utrecht University (1998) and a PhD in geophysics from the ETH Zurich, Switzerland (2003). In the past, he worked at the Dutch Seismological Institute (KNMI) and the Dutch geological survey (NITG-TNO). Since 2003, he is assistant professor on '3D geological modelling' in ITC's department of Earth Systems Analysis. Main research interest is the making the link between remotely sensed surface and subsurface information. Fields of application focus on geophysics, 3D geological modelling, integrating space and airborne (hyperspectral) remote sensing with seismology for geo-hazards and tectonics, and 3D environmental modelling, particularly focussing on detection of natural and man-made hydrocarbon leakages. More ...

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