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Department of Earth Sciences



Current Research

Observing and modelling continental tectonics. 

My work focuses on observing and understanding the active deformation of the Earth's continents, from the scale of individual earthquakes to entire mountain ranges and plate boundary zones. I am particularly interested in constraining the sizes and origins of the forces driving continental tectonics, and investigating the material properties of the lithosphere. Between them, these quantities play a first-order role in controlling important features of the world around us, such as the sizes and shapes of mountain ranges and depressions, and the locations of earthquakes. I pursue these topics using a combination of observations of active deformation (e.g. in earthquakes), and also numerical modelling to investigate the underlying forces. I work in a wide range of areas in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and South America. Areas of current research include:

- Investigating how earthquake cycles produce geological and topographic structures. This work aims to understand the controls on the geological evolution of the continents, and uses a combination of satellite radar and optical data, field observations, and seismic waveforms.

- Constraining the material properties of active fault zones, and the continental lithosphere at large, using the locations and slip distributions of earthquakes, and the subsequent postseismic deformation.

- Using dynamic models to investigate the controls on the large-scale tectonics of continental regions, at the scale of entire mountain ranges and basins. In particular, I investigate the origin and consequences of the major lateral rheology contrasts that control many aspects of the behaviour.

-  Investigating prehistoric earthquake ruptures using field and satellite observations, in order to map active faults and understand the controls on the distribution and characteristics of earthquakes.



Key publications: 

Recent publications can be found in the publications database here

Reader in Tectonics
Dr Alex  Copley

Contact Details

Email address: 
Bullard Labs
Madingley Rise,
Madingley Road,
+44 (0) 1223 748937


Person keywords: 
earthquake geology