Our research

COMET is aiming to significantly improve the understanding of tectonic and volcanic processes and the hazard they present.

Our overarching aim is to understand and quantify the distribution of seismic hazard in space and time, and the behaviour of magmatic systems and their associated volcanic hazards.

We have eight main scientific objectives:

  1.  Construct the first global high-resolution strain-rate map from InSAR and GNSS, focusing on the Alpine-Himalayan Belt.
  2. Produce and deliver maps of active faults and their rates of activity, using high resolution imagery and topography.
  3. Assess temporal variations in strain across distributed fault networks.
  4. Build dynamic models that can explain continental deformation across timescales.
  5. Produce and deliver time series of volcano deformation globally.
  6. Construct the first global assessment of current volcanic SO2 flux from infra-red and UV data.
  7. Build integrated models of magmatic plumbing systems.
  8. Develop near real-time analysis of volcanic unrest.

These objectives are supported by our work on long-term underpinning activities:

Deformation from satellite geodesy

We are continuing the long-term development of our Sentinel-1 InSAR processing facility, hosted by JASMIN/CEDA so that we can produce consistent, reliable, and accessible long-term rates of deformation and time series for tectonic belts and subaerial volcanoes across the globe.

We will also be producing 3D velocities by exploiting burst overlaps in Sentinel-1, automating the production of time series, improving our atmospheric correction service, and enabling rapid
response following volcanic or seismic events using data from multiple satellites.

Topography, deformation, and surface change analysis from high-resolution imagery

Our staff with specialisms in processing and application of high-resolution imagery support the wider COMET team in this area. In addition, we are automating the production of displacement measurements from Sentinel-2 data, and developing methodologies to exploit the ongoing expansion in high-resolution optical satellite images, for both rapid post-earthquake and post-eruption imaging of deformation and flow emplacement, and also for the analysis of geomorphology.

Retrievals of volcanic emissions from satellite spectrometers

We are working on infra-red and UV retrievals, developing our retrieval algorithms to estimate the SO2 flux from quiescent degassing volcanoes. We are also incorporating laboratory measurements of ash optical properties of volcanic ash into
our IASI retrievals so we can estimate SiO2 composition.


We are developing systems to enable expert and non-expert users to benefit from COMET data streams, in consultation with end users in the scientific and civil defence communities, for example
at volcano observatories.  We are also focusing on developing
machine learning methods towards real-time operation at volcanoes, improving the detail, timeliness
and reliability of the information we can provide to decision makers.