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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute

Past Events

Find out about some of the previous events held by Durham Energy Institute:

Café Scientifique: Seismicity in the British Isles by Prof. Bob Holdsworth

19th November 2013, 20:00 to 21:00, ARC Stockton Arts Centre, Professor Bob Holdsworth of Durham University

Uncertainties in causes of distribution make the prediction of earthquakes in the British Isles particularly difficult. But is this important given the generally small size of most seismic events? Two recent developments in the UK bring this question into sharp focus: the proposed construction of a new generation of nuclear power stations and the recent fracking controversy.

<span >Earthquakes – or seismicity – occur due to sudden movements along geological faults that release elastic strain energy stored in the crust.

<span >Since they are located a significant distance from active plate margins, the British Isles are not generally considered to be associated with dangerous levels of seismicity, but like many other intraplate regions, there are still (mostly) small earthquakes in some areas.<span >Typically 20 to 30 of these are felt by people annually, with a few hundred smaller ones recorded by instruments.<span >Most earthquakes occur on the western side of the British mainland and the North Sea. Relatively few events occur in eastern Scotland and north east England, whilst Ireland is pretty much seismicity-free.

<span >The causes of this distribution and how it relates to the very well-known subsurface geology of Britain are startlingly unclear. We also don’t fully understand the driving forces of this deformation: is it regional compression caused by motion of the Earth’s tectonic plates or uplift resulting from the melting of the ice sheets that covered many parts of Britain many thousands of years ago? These uncertainties make the prediction of earthquakes in the British Isles particularly difficult. But is this important given the generally small size of most seismic events? Two recent developments in the UK bring this question into sharp focus: the proposed construction of a new generation of nuclear power stations and the recent fracking controversy.

<span >Professor Bob Holdsworth of Durham University discusses seismicity in the British Isles and asks whether this an enduring enigma is a threat or not.

The lecture has been organised by Café Scientifique in association with John Snow College. For more info visit ARC Stockton Arts Centre here.