All posts by Lucy

Edna Dualeh: 2024 Willy Aspinall Prize


VMSG has recently announced its 2024 award winners and we are delighted to announce that COMET staff researcher Edna Dualeh has been named as the recipient of the 2024 Willy Aspinall Prize for an outstanding paper on applied volcanology.

Edna’s work on St. Vincent was part of her PhD with COMET Scientist Susanna Ebmeier and COMET Director, Tim Wright both based at the University of Leeds.

You can read Edna’s winning paper here:

Huge congratulations to Edna from all your colleagues at COMET!

Girls into Geoscience Careers Day

A group from the University of Bristol’s volcanology group represented COMET at the recent Girls into Geoscience careers day at the University of Plymouth. The group, consisting of MSc Volcanology students Alex Daniels, Anne-Marie Molina, Hannah Ellis, and PhD Student Ben Ireland, delivered a workshop showcasing a range of volcanological phenomena.

Anne-Marie and Alex had the following to say about the experience:

“We were at Plymouth University representing COMET for an event called “Girls into Geoscience”, where we talked about the different areas of volcanology to try and encourage these girls to pursue a career in geoscience! We wanted to pique their interest by showcasing volcanic rocks, drone imagery, and had a simulation of a volcanic eruption with a Coke and Mentos experiment. 

 We loved seeing the girls get involved with the interactive activities which they may not have access to in a classroom and loved their questions for us. It was really rewarding to see the girls understand volcanic processes through our experiment and get a sense of the intricacies which take place prior to a volcanic eruption in different settings around the world. This was an amazing opportunity to speak to so many girls with different backgrounds that came together with an interest in geoscience. It felt great to be able to inspire some of them with our own stories and hopefully they’ll pursue a career in geoscience!

 We hope to be back representing COMET at this great event next year!”

‘Sensing Volcanoes’ at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition

From July 4 – 9 this year, a team from the University of Oxford, University of East Anglia and the University of the West Indies, Seismic Research Centre and Montserrat Volcano Observatory ran a multi-sensory installation as one of nine showcase exhibits at the Royal Society’s summer exhibition. Over six days, thirty volunteers helped to run the installation, manage the enthusiastic crowds of children and adults, and showcase aspects of volcanic and geophysical research.

The exhibit was designed around the ‘Curating Crises’ project [] funded by AHRC and NERC, which is exploring historical unrest at Caribbean volcanoes using data sources from archives – including the National Archives, the Royal Society, the British Geological Survey and the Montserrat Public Library.

The tag line for the exhibit was ‘sense, detect, imagine’. The idea was to explore how people living near a volcano might sense unrest; and how the detection of unrest feeds into the imagining, or interpretation, of what is happening underground, and what might happen next. To create sensory elements of the installation we had objects including an early 1900’s gramophone trumpet, with the sounds of bubbling geysers; an ash-covered cord telephone (from the 1990’s) with recorded eye-witness accounts of activity on Montserrat, and some tactile pots carved from scoria, impregnated with a mysterious ‘volcano scent’ that had been created for the exhibition. The highlight of the exhibit was the imaginarium – a ‘light up’ floor, controlled by a raspberry Pi. We ran this in two modes – one to represent the seismicity and movement of magma beneath La Soufrière, St Vincent during the 2021 eruption; and the second to run an interactive game on uncertainty and unrest, where the floor transformed into a map view of an island, which then turns out be a volcano.

The exhibit was busy for the whole of the exhibition, with over 4000 visitors to the building over the final weekend alone. Those who dropped by included Janice Panton, the Government of Montserrat representative; Turner-prize winning artist Veronica Ryan, and Cecil Browne, a Vincentian author. The exhibit is portable (with a van!) and will have another outing at the Oxford Festival of Science and Ideas in October.

Thank you to all of our volunteers, funders, and to the artists and creatives – Output Arts, Ωmega ingredients and Lizzie Ostrom – who helped to turn a 2-page vision statement into a physical exhibit in a little over six months!

Written by Professor David Pyle, University of Oxford

Bridie Davies (UEA, now Manchester) checking the sound from the gramophone trumpet.
Stacey Edwards (UWI-SRC) and Jenni Barclay (UEA) checking the pendulum array and smelling stones.
The final stages of the uncertainty game. The volcano on the island has erupted, and places where people have chosen to live (represented by toys) have been affected by ash fallout (purple) or pyroclastic flows (orange).

ESA–EGU 2023 Excellence Award winner Dr Susanna Ebmeier








COMET scientist, Dr Susanna Ebmeier has been recognised at the European Space Agency (ESA)-European Geosciences Union (EGU) excellence awards.

The awards celebrate the innovative use of Earth observation data.

Dr Ebmeier, from the University of Leeds, won the individual award for her work using satellite images to further the scientific understanding of volcanic processes.

Satellite technology means researchers can take measurements that show how the Earth’s surface is moving in volcanic areas with a precision of a few millimetres.

That information means that Dr Ebmeier and her colleagues are able to see how molten rock is moving beneath the Earth’s surface, as well as learn about the growth and stability of volcanoes themselves.

The prize winners, from across Europe, have been celebrated at the EGU’s General Assembly which took place in Vienna on 25 April.

Congratulations to Susi from all your COMET colleagues!

Read more about the ESA-EGU awards.

How and why does COMET respond to earthquakes?

A personal view from COMET* director, Prof Tim Wright 

14 February 2023 

We have all been shocked and horrified by the pictures coming from Türkiye and Syria over the past week following the two large earthquakes that happened on 6 February. COMET aims to generate and freely distribute robust scientific satellite deformation data sets following all moderate-large earthquakes on land. These can assist the humanitarian and scientific response.  

Here I want to briefly explain COMET’s approach to responding to an event like this from my perspective not just as COMET director, but also as a scientist who has been involved in responding to many earthquakes using satellite deformation data and who has been working on active faulting in Türkiye for my entire career. 

Deformation data from satellites are now a fundamental data set for understanding what happened in an earthquake, complementing the information that is available from seismology and from field studies. Deformation data shows, very precisely, which faults moved in an earthquake and by how much. Earthquakes are not point sources – they involve slip on faults. As earthquakes get larger, they involve larger/longer faults with increasing amounts of slip. Understanding how much and where slip occurred on a fault helps us understand the amount of shaking that is likely to have been experienced in different locations – distance to the fault is a primary control on the intensity of shaking. 

In COMET, we have been developing a service to automatically produce ground movement data sets from radar satellites following all earthquakes bigger than Magnitude 5.5 that are likely to impact the land surface, and are now a trusted source for these data sets. This is possible because the Sentinel-1 satellites, part of the European Commission’s Copernicus programme, have a systematic acquisition strategy over tectonic and volcanic areas, something that COMET worked with the European Space Agency to help define. We produce results from satellite data as fast as possible following the satellite acquisition, make them available to the public via a dedicated portal, and typically let people know about them using the @NERC_COMET and @COMET_database accounts on twitter.  

In the case of the Türkiye earthquakes, the data sets that we produced in COMET, which was also analysed by other international groups, show that the fault that ruptured in the initial Magnitude 7.8 earthquake was a 300 km long section of the East Anatolian Fault, and the fault that ruptured in the second large earthquake, a magnitude 7.5, was over 100 km long and occurred along a different branch of the same fault system. In UK terms, the length of the first fault is about the same as the distance from Bristol to Hull; and is close to the distance from London to Paris. This great extent is one of the reasons why the devastation has been so widespread and horrendous. Both earthquakes occurred on mapped faults and in areas where national maps of seismic hazard required the strictest building codes. 

We believe it is important to analyse satellite data as quickly as possible and to be open and transparent with the results, sharing them with the wider community and allowing people to use them in whatever way they wish. For most earthquakes, we now have data within a few days of the event, and we post results within a few hours of the satellite data acquisition, whether there is any media interest in an event or not. We would like to be able to do this within a few hours of every event, and with new satellite systems from the Europe, the US/India, Japan, Canada, China, and others coming on stream, there is good prospect of being able to provide results within a day of most events in the second half of this decade. 

However, even if the results are not yet always available within the 72-hour window required for initial search and rescue efforts, the analysis of satellite deformation data can still be useful. Various groups around the world are using these types of data (provided by COMET or processed by other groups) to build models of the event – these can in turn be used to help understand how an earthquake influences the activity on nearby faults. More directly, the data, and information derived from it such as the location of individual fault ruptures, can help responders understand the potential impact on key infrastructure such as bridges and roads, which are vital for the relief effort but might have been impacted by the surface rupture, or other slope failures resulting from the earthquake. The data also help guide field geologists to sites in the field where they can study the earthquake fault rupture up close – such features can degrade very quickly in poor weather conditions; documenting them is important for understanding what palaeoseismologists see when they are investigating records of ancient earthquake ruptures and for understanding the detail of what happened in the causative earthquake. In turn, detailed surface rupture mapping can help to add constraints to models of the earthquake based on geodetic data. In the longer-term, forensically understanding every earthquake helps us prepare for future events in different regions.  

As well as providing data sets, COMET scientists, including myself, often discuss the meaning of these data sets with colleagues in open fora like twitter, and respond to queries from colleagues and the media. Leading on from comments by American seismologist and science communicator Dr Lucy Jones, my view also is that this information sharing is vital so that scientists involved directly in the response, or those involved in communication to the public, have access to the latest data and can understand what happened during an event. Often this understanding evolves quite quickly during the hours and days that follow the earthquake. Having reliable information communicated directly in platforms like twitter, and indirectly via the media, is vital for combatting misinformation and conspiracy theories that can unfortunately proliferate in the absence of reliable scientific comment. Twitter has become a key platform for many of those discussions. 

Behind the scenes, we also are passing on information to local and international partners directly, so that they have the data they need to respond, and we are responding to queries to help people use the data. We are also providing data and information to help assist with the UK government’s emergency response via our partners in the British Geological Survey. 

We are of course acutely conscious that our scientific responses to events like the recent earthquakes are happening in the context of humanitarian tragedies. If you are able, I encourage you to give generously to organisations such as the Disasters Emergency Committee in the UK, who are helping survivors in urgent need of aid and assistance. 

 *COMET is the UK Centre for the Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tectonics, a partnership between scientists in UK Universities and the British Geological Survey tasked with delivering National Capability science on behalf of the Natural Environment Research Council. Our focus is on using Earth Observation data alongside other data sets to help understand earthquake and volcanic processes and hazards. 

Thanks to Wendy Bohon, Ruth Lawford-Rolfe, and Laura Gregory for providing input on early drafts of this text. 

Türkiye-Syria Earthquakes, February 2023 

On 6 February, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the East Anatolian Fault affecting large areas of Southern Türkiye and Northern Syria. This was followed by a 7.5-magnitude event approximately 9 hours later, around 60 miles to the north. To date more than 37,000 people are confirmed to have died, large numbers of people are affected across the region and the damage to buildings and infrastructure is significant.   

Images from ESA’s Sentinel-1A satellite captured on 9/10 February clearly showed the physical effects of the earthquake on the ground, including deformation of up to 6 metres along a 300km section of the fault, and the second event causing a second ~125km rupture. Many population centres sit close to these zones, explaining the significant human impact of the event.  

By combining Sentinel-1A imagery from before and after the earthquake, COMET scientists have been able to measure surface deformation that is clearly visible in InSAR and pixel offset tracking data sets shown below: 

In addition to the results from the satellite radar data, we have also used the pre- and post-event optical images from Sentinel-2 to estimate ground movement in the earthquakes also using pixel tracking: 

The processing outputs from Sentinel-1A data are available for download at our LiCSAR system event page. The results from Sentinel-2 are available here. 

The images above contain modified Copernicus Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 data analysed by the Centre for the Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tectonics (COMET). Data processing uses JASMIN, the UK’s collaborative data analysis environment ( 

For more information on why and how COMET responds to earthquake events read this article by our Director – Professor Tim Wright. 

COMET – 14 February 2023 

International Women & Girls in Science Day 2023


This year, COMET celebrates International Women & Girls in Science Day 2023 by promoting some of the high-quality science that women have achieved, as part of and in collaboration with members of COMET. We would also like to recognise and emphasise that women are still facing many barriers along their scientific career path. More information can be found on the UN website:


Zoe Mildon: Bullerwell Lecturer 2023


The BGA is delighted to announce that COMET associate, Dr. Zoe Mildon from University of Plymouth, is the Bullerwell Lecturer for 2023! Zoe’s research is focused on understanding tectonics, active faulting and earthquakes. She currently holds a prestigious UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship investigating earthquake interaction and seismic hazard.

Congratulations Zoe!

Bullerwell Lecturer 2023 | The British Geophysical Association (

Dr Susanna Ebmeier awarded 2022 AGU John Wahr Early Career Award


The American Geophysical Union (AGU) has recently announced its 2022 section award winners and named lecturers.

We are delighted to announce that COMET scientist Dr Susanna Ebmeier has been named as the recipient of the 2022 John Wahr Early Career Award in the Geodesy section.

The John Wahr Early Career Award is presented annually and recognizes significant advances in geodetic science, technology, applications, observations, or theory.

The winners will be celebrated at the AGU Annual Meeting taking place 12 – 16 December 2022 in Chicago.

Huge congratulations to Susi from all colleagues within COMET.

2022 AGU Section Awardees and Named Lecturers – Eos

Tim Craig: Bullerwell Lecturer 2022

The BGA is delighted to announce that Dr Tim Craig from University of Leeds, is the Bullerwell Lecturer for 2022. The main focus of his research is the relation between intraplate earthquakes and tectonics. Tim completed his PhD in 2013 on the topic Constraining Lithosphere Rheology using Earthquake Seismology at Bullard Laboratories in University of Cambridge; this was followed by a PDRA position in pRais, before moving to Leeds in 2015.

Bullerwell Lecturer 2022 | The British Geophysical Association (

Congratulations Tim from all your colleagues at COMET!