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Sam Wimpenny

Sam Wimpenny

Research Student

Mechanics of earthquakes

Rheology of the lithosphere and fault zones

Active tectonics

Bullard Laboratories
Madingley Rise
Madingley Road



My interests lie in understanding the mechanics of faulting, how continents deform to generate mountain ranges and basins, the rheology of the lithosphere and fault behaviour.

In order to investigate these topics I use observational techniques ranging from geomorphology, space-borne satellite geodesy (InSAR, GPS), seismology and structural geology to measure ground deformation during and after earthquakes. These observations can then be used to constrain physical models of fault behaviour, ranging from complex numerical simulations to simple force balance calculations.

Research Interests

Locking on Intra-continental Faults:

Following the 2003 Mw 6.6 Bam earthquake in SE Iran, we measured the post-seismic ground deformation using radar satellites (InSAR). We used these measurements, in conjunction with numerical models of fault creep in response to co-seismic stress changes, to show that the data are consistent with only a small area of the available fault surface creeping in response to loading due to the earthquake. 

This provides the first indirect evidence for locking along an intra-continental fault through the use of post-seismic deformation. Faults that remain predominantly locked are likely to release the majority of slip in earthquakes, hence can be considered to pose a greater seismic hazard relative to those that creep extensively (e.g., Longitudinal Valley Fault, Parkfield section of the San Andreas).


Gravitational Collapse of the Andes

Normal faulting earthquakes within the Andes of South Peru suggest the elevated regions are extending as a result of differences in gravitational potential energy between the mountains and the South American lowlands. I have been using earthquake observations in conjunction with simple force calculations and literature studies to reassess the forces acting on this plate tectonic configuration, and test models for the mechanical support of the Andes through the lithosphere.


earthquake geology ; Geophysics ; Geodesy ; Seismology


  • Seismology
  • Numerical Modelling


Key Publications


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