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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences

Staff Profile

Professor Richard Hobbs, PhD

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 44295
Room number: Rm 320

Contact Professor Richard Hobbs (email at


2016 present — Professor, Department of Earth Science, University of Durham

2008 2016 — Senior Lecturer, Department of Earth Science, University of Durham

2003 – 2008 — NERC Advanced Research Fellow, Department of Earth Science, University of Durham

1998 – 2003 — Principle Investigator, Atlantic Margins Project, Bullard Labs, University of Cambridge

1990 – 1998 — Director, BIRPS Core Group, Bullard Labs, University of Cambridge

1989 – 1990 — Senior Research Associate, BIRPS, Bullard Labs, University of Cambridge

1985 – 1989 — Research Associate, BIRPS, Bullard Labs, University of Cambridge

Career Research Highlights

My research is based around applied wave field propagation and seismic data processing. In particular, the acquisition and processing of seismic reflection and refraction data and the development of software to investigate the propagation of seismic waves in three dimensional heterogeneous media. I am currently involved in a number of projects, described below.

Fast 3-D viscoelastic modelling: critical to improving methodology is understanding of how seismic waves interact with the heterogeneous geology. This project has been funded both by the NERC and DERA and has generated a fast and efficient full-waveform modelling scheme. The code can successfully handle 1, 2 or 3 dimensions with plane, cylindrical or point sources in a model that can contain any combination of material with acoustic, elastic or viscoelastic properties. The principal advantage over other codes, e.g. 3-D finite difference, is that the code can run on any workstation or fast PC and does not require the use of a parallel super computer.

Seismic Oceanography is a new discipline that brings the power and resolution of the seismic reflection method to bare on Oceanographic issues (EU funded NEST project - GO (Geophysical Oceanography) with a total value of 2.7M Euro). The project undertook joint acquisition and modelling to provide a benchmark calibration of the method in the Gulf of Cadiz where the hot saline water flows out of the Straits of Gibraltar and mixes with the North Atlantic Water. We successfully tracked a small Meddy (an underwater vortex of Mediterranean Water) and acquired high resolution images of its detailed temperature and salinity structure. This new tool has the potential to address issues on mixing in oceans and provide a means to monitor change. I was also involved in a CNR (Venice) led experiment to use seismic oceanography to monitor dense water currents along the western margin of the Adriatic Sea.

Volcanic Margins Research Consortium is a national research effort sponsored by industry focussed on continental margins that have experienced a major volcanic influence, eg the Faroes margin to the northwest of Britain. The extensive extrusive basalt flows and intrusive dykes and sill create problems for traditional mapping of these margins. The project combines traditional geological mapping and innovative remote sensing to help improve understanding of the evolution of these margins.

Bayesian methods provide the means to quantify uncertainty given some observed data and some prior information about the problem. I am developing techniques based on Bayesian principles, in conjunction with the Department of mathematical Sciences, to provide robust estimates of uncertainty for a range of geophysical problems: the computation of the velocity/depth model used in pre-stack depth migration; uncertainties in predicting over-pressure (GEOPOP3) and of seismic data; and joint uncertainties for combinations of complementary data such as gravity, seismic refraction and magnetotelluric data.

OSCAR is a NERC funded Consortium Grant (Durham, NOC, UCL and Oxford) that aims to map the heat and mass fluxes at a mid-ocean ridge. New ocean crust is formed at the mid-ocean ridge as the Earth's plates move. This crust is rapidly cooled by the hydrothermal circulation of sea-water through cracks and pores which removes the heat but also chemically reacts with the rock to deposit and remove minerals. The waste heat is then dissipated in the abyssal oceans. Recent modelling of ocean circulation has shown that including more accurate maps of this geothermal heat input has significant effects on the deep water circulation.

I am co-I on a forth-coming International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) drilling expedition to recover core from south and south-west Australia, leg 369 Australia Cretaceous Climate and Tectonics. The project aims to understand the paleoceanography and tectonics of the Naturaliste Plateau (NP) and Mentelle Basin (MB) off SW Australia. Core and log data from a series of sites in water depths between 850 and 3900 m to investigate: (1) the rise and collapse of the Cretaceous hothouse; (2) the controls on oceanic anoxic events during major carbon cycle perturbations; (3) Cretaceous paleoceanography including deep and intermediate water circulation; (4) Cenozoic to recent paleoceanography including influence of the Tasman gateway opening and Indonesian gateway restriction; and (5) the tectonic, volcanic, and depositional history of the NP and MB prior to Gondwana breakup, as well as after separation from India and subsequently Antarctica.

Committee and Society Service

2012 – present:— NERC Peer Review College

2012 – present: — UK member of Inter-Ridge

2010 – present: — Committee member of UK Ocean Bottom Instrument Consortium


2003 – 2008 — NERC Advanced Research Fellow

2003 — Senior Research Fellow, Cambridge

Membership of Organisations and Societies


European Geosciences Union;

American Geophysical Union;

Society of Exploration Geophysicists;

European Association of Geoscientists & Engineers;

Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain;


the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers & Commerce

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2015: External Examiner for University of the West Indies:
  • 2012: NERC Peer Review College:
  • 2005: Co-Ordinator of EU-NEST GO Project:
  • 2003: NERC Advanced Research Fellow:
  • 1997: Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce:

Research Groups

Department of Earth Sciences

Research Interests

  • International Ocean Discovery Program drilling
  • Ocean ridge geothermal processes
  • Controlled source seismic data (acquisition, processing and interpretation)
  • Seismic Oceanography
  • 3D seismic wavefield modelling
  • Bayesian methods to quantify uncertainty
  • Joint inversion

Teaching Areas

  • 1st year - Understanding Earth Processes

    (3 hours/year.)
  • 2nd year - Earth Visualization

    (20 hours/year.)
  • 2nd year - Geophysical Fieldwork

    (26 hours/year.)
  • 3rd year - Petroleum Geophysics

    (20 hours/year.)
  • 3rd year - Geophysics Dissertations
  • 4th year - Geophysics Research projects
  • 4th year - Science in Society (10 hours/year.)


Selected Publications

Journal Article

  • Wainman, C.C., Borissova, I., Harry, D. L., Hobbs, R. W., Mantle, D. J., Maritati, A., Lee, E. Y. & and the Expedition 369 Scientists (2019). Evidence for non-marine Jurassic to earliest Cretaceous sediments in the pre-breakup section of the Mentelle Basin, southwestern Australia. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences (AJES)
  • Abudlkareem, Lamees, Imber, Jonathan & Hobbs, Richard (2019). Geophysical evidence for structurally-controlled, authigenic carbonate cementation in the Laminaria High, Bonaparte basin, Northwest Shelf of Australia. Marine and Petroleum Geology 99: 563-576.
  • Li, Y., Zhang, S., Hobbs, R., Caiado, C., Sproson, A.D., Selby, D. & Rooney, A.D. (2019). Monte Carlo sampling for error propagation in linear regression and applications in isochron geochronology. Science Bulletin 64(3): 189-197.
  • Banyte, D., Morales Maqueda, M., Hobbs, R., Smeed, D. A., Megann, A. & Recalde, S. (2018). Geothermal heating in the Panama Basin. Part I: hydrography of the basin. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 123(10): 7382-7392.
  • Banyte, D., Morales Maqueda, M., Smeed, D. A., Megann, A., Hobbs, R. & Recalde, S. (2018). Geothermal heating in the Panama Basin. Part II: abyssal water mass transformation. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 123(10): 7393-7406.
  • Shi, Zhanjie, Hobbs, Richard W., Moorkamp, Max, Tian, Gang & Jiang, Lu (2017). 3-D cross-gradient joint inversion of seismic refraction and DC resistivity data. Journal of Applied Geophysics 141: 54-67.
  • Heincke, Björn, Jegen, Marion, Moorkamp, Max, Hobbs, Richard & Chen, Jin (2017). An adaptive coupling strategy for joint inversions that use petrophysical information as constraints. Journal of Applied Geophysics 136: 279-297.
  • Tang, Qunshu, Hobbs, Richard, Wang, Dongxiao, Sun, Longtao, Zheng, Chan, Li, Jiabiao & Dong, Chongzhi (2015). Marine seismic observation of internal solitary wave packets in the northeast South China Sea. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 120(12): 8487-8503.
  • Nelson, Catherine E., Hobbs, Richard W. & Rusch, Roxanne (2015). On the Use of Fractal Surfaces to Understand Seismic Wave Propagation in Layered Basalt Sequences. Pure and Applied Geophysics 172(7): 1879-1892.
  • Davies, R.J., Yang, J., Hobbs, R. & Li, A. (2014). Probable patterns of gas flow and hydrate accretion at the base of the hydrate stability zone. Geology 42(12): 1055-1058.
  • Caiado, Camila C. S., Goldstein, Michael & Hobbs, Richard W. (2012). Bayesian Strategies to Assess Uncertainty in Velocity Models. Bayesian Analysis 7(1): 211-234.
  • Mohamed-Ali, M. A., Herbich, T., Grzymski, K. & Hobbs, R. (2012). Magnetic Gradient and Electrical Resistivity Tomography Surveys in Meroe, the Capital City of the Kush Kingdom, Sudan. Archaeological Prospection 19(1): 59-68.
  • Vsemirnova, E. A., Hobbs, R. W. & Hosegood, P. (2012). Mapping turbidity layers using seismic oceanography methods. Ocean Science 8(1): 11-18.
  • Sheen, K. L., White, N. J., Caulfield, C. P. & Hobbs, R. W. (2012). Seismic imaging of a large horizontal vortex at abyssal depths beneath the Sub-Antarctic Front. Nature Geoscience 5(8): 542-546.
  • Carniel, Sandro, Bergamasco, Andrea, Book, Jeffrey W., Hobbs, Richard W., Sclavo, Mauro & Wood, Warren T. (2012). Tracking bottom waters in the Southern Adriatic Sea applying seismic oceanography techniques. Continental Shelf Research 44: 30-38.
  • Moorkamp, M., Heincke, B., Jegen, M., Roberts, A. & Hobbs, R. (2011). A framework for 3-D joint inversion of MT, gravity and seismic refraction data. Geophysical Journal International 184(1): 477-493.
  • Sheen, Katy L., White, Nicky, Caulfield, Colm P. & Hobbs, Richard W. (2011). Estimating Geostrophic Shear from Seismic Images of Oceanic Structure. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology 28(9): 1149-1154.
  • Sargent, C., Hobbs, R.W. & Gröcke, D.R. (2011). Improving the interpretability of air-gun seismic reflection data using deterministic filters: A case history from offshore Cape Leeuwin, south-west Australia. Geophysics 76(3): B113-B125.
  • Maloney, D., Sargent, C., Direen, N. G., Hobbs, R. W. & Gröcke, D.R. (2011). Re-evaluation of the Mentelle Basin, a polyphase rifted margin basin, offshore southwest Australia: new insights from integrated regional seismic datasets. Solid Earth 2(2): 107-123.
  • Nelson, Catherine E., Jerram, Dougal A., Hobbs, Richard W., Terrington, Ricky & Kessler, Holger (2011). Reconstructing flood basalt lava flows in three dimensions using terrestrial laser scanning. Geosphere 7(1): 87-96.
  • Flecha, I., Carbonell, R., Hobbs, R. W. & Zeyen, H. (2011). Some improvements in subbasalt imaging using pre-stack depth migration. Solid Earth 2(1): 1-7.
  • Quentel, E., Carton, X., Gutscher, M. -A. & Hobbs, R. (2010). Detecting and characterizing mesoscale and submesoscale structures of Mediterranean water from joint seismic and hydrographic measurements in the Gulf of Cadiz. Geophysical Research Letters 37: L06604.
  • Papenberg, C., Klaeschen, D. Krahmann, G. & Hobbs, R. W. (2010). Ocean temperature and salinity inverted from combined hydrographic and seismic data. Geophysical Research Letters 37: L04601.
  • Buffett, G. G., Hurich, C. A., Vsemirnova, E. A., Hobbs, R. W., Sallarès, V., Carbonell, R., Klaeschen, D. & Biescas, B. (2010). Stochastic Heterogeneity Mapping around a Mediterranean salt lens. Ocean Science 6(1): 423-429.
  • Menesguen, C., Hua, B. L., Papenberg, C., Klaeschen, D., Geli, L. & Hobbs, R. (2009). Effect of bandwidth on seismic imaging of rotating stratified turbulence surrounding an anticyclonic eddy from field data and numerical simulations. Geophysical Research Letters 36: L00D05.
  • Hobbs, R. W., Klaeschen, D., Sallares, V., Vsemirnova, E. & Papenberg, C. (2009). Effect of seismic source bandwidth on reflection sections to image water structure. Geophysical Research Letters 36: L00D08.
  • Vsemirnova, E., Hobbs, R., Serra, N., Klaeschen, D. & Quentel, E. (2009). Estimating internal wave spectra using constrained models of the dynamic ocean. Geophysical Research Letters 36: L00D07.
  • Sheen, K. L., White, N. J. & Hobbs, R. W. (2009). Estimating mixing rates from seismic images of oceanic structure. Geophysical Research Letters 36: L00D04.
  • Klaeschen, D., Hobbs, R. W., Krahmann, G., Papenberg, C. & Vsemirnova, E. (2009). Estimating movement of reflectors in the water column using seismic oceanography. Geophysical Research Letters 36: L00D03.
  • Nelson, Catherine E., Jerram, Dougal A. & Hobbs, Richard W. (2009). Flood basalt facies from borehole data: implications for prospectivity and volcanology in volcanic rifted margins. Petroleum Geoscience 15(4): 313-324.
  • Geli, L., Cosquer, E., Hobbs, R. W., Klaeschen, D., Papenberg, C., Thomas, Y., Menesguen, C. & Hua, B. L. (2009). High resolution seismic imaging of the ocean structure using a small volume airgun source array in the Gulf of Cadiz. Geophysical Research Letters 36: L00D09.
  • Jegen, Marion D., Hobbs, Richard W., Tarits, Pascal & Chave, Alan (2009). Joint inversion of marine magnetotelluric and gravity data incorporating seismic constraints Preliminary results of sub-basalt imaging off the Faroe Shelf. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 282(1-4): 47-55.
  • Buffett, G. G., Biescas, B., Pelegri, J. L., Machin, F., Sallares, V., Carbonell, R., Klaeschen, D. & Hobbs, R. (2009). Seismic reflection along the path of the Mediterranean Undercurrent. Continental Shelf Research 29(15): 1848-1860.
  • Watts, A.B., Rodger, M., Greenroyd, C.J., Peirce, C. & Hobbs, R.W. (2009). Seismic structure, gravity anomalies, and flexure of the Amazon continental margin, NE Brazil. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth 114(B7): B07103.
  • Jerram, Dougal A., Single, Richard T., Hobbs, Richard W. & Nelson, Catherine E. (2009). Understanding the offshore flood basalt sequence using onshore volcanic facies analogues: an example from the Faroe-Shetland basin. Geological Magazine 146(3 ): 353-367.
  • Pearse, S., Hobbs, R. & Bosch, M. (2009). Using a local Monte Carlo strategy to assess 1-D velocity models from wide-angle seismic travel-time data and application to the Rockall Trough. Tectonophysics 472(1-4): 284-289.


  • Huber, B.T., Hobbs, R.W., Bogus, K.A. & Expedition 369 Scientists (2018). Expedition 369 Preliminary Report: Australia Cretaceous Climate and Tectonics. International Ocean Discovery Program. Tectonic, paleoclimate, and paleoceanographic history of high-latitude southern margins of Australia during the Cretaceous, 26 September–26 November 2017. International Ocean Discovery Program.

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