MAL30-SM | Beno Gutenberg Medal Lecture by Jaroslava Plomerová and SM Division Outstanding ECS Award Lecture by Stephen P. Hicks
Beno Gutenberg Medal Lecture by Jaroslava Plomerová and SM Division Outstanding ECS Award Lecture by Stephen P. Hicks
Including SM Division Outstanding ECS Award Lecture
Convener: Alice-Agnes Gabriel
| Tue, 16 Apr, 19:00–20:00 (CEST)
Room G2
Tue, 19:00

Session assets

Orals: Tue, 16 Apr | Room G2

Chairperson: Alice-Agnes Gabriel
SM Division Outstanding ECS Award Lecture
On-site presentation
Stephen P. Hicks

80% of earthquakes occur underwater, so ocean-bottom seismometers (OBS) are crucial for improving our understanding of earthquake source mechanics along unexplored offshore faults, and fillling key gaps in our images of the deeper solid Earth. Even for ocean islands and island arcs, land stations alone struggle to image underlying structures. Broadband OBSs have been through many design iterations, but many OBS deployments now yield high data recovery rates (>90%). 

Even though my first OBS deployment experience left me feeling seasick, I have since continued to seismically explore the oceans, taking part in several OBS projects. In this talk, I will focus on my recent results from experiments across the Atlantic Ocean. Compared to the faster-spreading and subducting Pacific lithosphere, the less well-studied Atlantic offers a key endmember for refining our knowledge of global tectonics and associated hazards.

In the Lesser Antilles subduction zone, subducting Atlantic lithosphere is heterogeneously hydrated. Local earthquakes recorded by OBSs (VoiLA experiment), allowed me to image seismic attenuation to map fluid and melt pathways through the slab and mantle wedge, showing how slab fluids precondition melt generation and volcanism in arc settings. In the mid-Atlantic, long transform faults can host large M~7 earthquakes in ultra-wide (20-30 km thick) fault zones, allowing a uniquely macro-scale view of how damage zones control seismogenesis. In 2017, OBSs (PI-LAB experiment) recorded a nearby Mw 7.1 earthquake on the Romanche transform fault, triggering detailed teleseismic analysis that show back-propagating rupture fronts, which have since been seen during the 2023 M7.8 Türkiye earthquake. More recently, I analysed a seismic swarm and dyke intrusion in the Azores, which lies on a diffuse transtensional plate boundary. Here, a temporary OBS network (UPFLOW project) installed around the uniquely narrow island of São Jorge yields high-resolution seismicity locations that shed light on magma inflow and drainage along pre-existing faults.

Overall, OBS experiments yield fascinating results, but these results come from vast team efforts, particularly from ship crews and OBS technicians, that often go uncredited. We need to work harder to ensure the long-term sustainability of data from these expensive, often publicly-funded projects, with OBS-specific data preprocessing complications a partial barrier to this.

How to cite: Hicks, S. P.: Uncovering the tectonic secrets of the Atlantic with broadband ocean-bottom seismology, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-14636,, 2024.

Beno Gutenberg Medal Lecture
On-site presentation
Jaroslava Plomerová

Seismic waves propagating through the Earth sample its structure, carry information about its fabrics and physical characteristics and record its present-day state and evolution. In the past, several velocity discontinuities within the radial Earth, which separate its fundamental regions, were retrieved. The lower mantle-core boundary was named as Gutenberg discontinuity in recognition of the Gutenberg’s discovery of the Earth’s core in 1913. This discontinuity relates to the abrupt decrease in P-velocity and diminishing of S-waves in the liquid core. In present-day terminology, the Gutenberg discontinuity is associated with the bottom of the D’’ layer. An area of low velocities in the Earth’s upper mantle denoted as G-discontinuity, has related to Gutenberg’s name until now. The low velocity zone exists just below the oceanic lithosphere, and its characteristics are often used globally in studies of lithosphere thickness in the view of modern plate tectonics. Gutenberg’s Seismicity of the Earth (1941) became a major influence in later scientists’ efforts to describe the theory of plate tectonics. The accuracy and validity of the Earth models depend on data quality and coverage, i.e., earthquake foci - seismic station ray distribution within the Earth volume studied. Small-sized to large-scale international passive seismic experiments, operated during several recent decades, recorded an unprecedented huge amount of high-quality data, which along with new techniques and computational facilities represent a big step forward in our knowledge of the Earth’s structure. However, many questions still remain unanswered and require further research. Current close international cooperation among seismologists involved in the experiments follow the spirit of Beno Gutenberg’s action as a driving force behind the acceptance of seismology as an international science of earthquake detection and the Earth studies.

We present models of the European lithosphere derived from the propagation of body waves, shear-wave splitting and radial and azimuthal anisotropy of surface waves, including ambient noise. Data for individual studies has been collected from international seismological databases (ISC, EIDA) and from several passive experiments we have organized or participated in. Initial isotropic models are upgraded into anisotropic ones, following the fundamental condition that seismic anisotropy is a 3D phenomenon and thus it has to be evaluated in 3D to get more realistic images of the Earth. We invert/interpret jointly anisotropic parameters of independent observables (directional variations of P-wave travel times, shear-wave splitting parameters) which leads to 3D self-consistent anisotropic models of the continental lithosphere with tilted symmetry axes and characteristic domain-like structure. The individual domains at size from several tenths to several hundreds of kilometers are often sharply bounded and of different thicknesses. We interpret the often sharply bounded domains with systematically oriented dipping fabrics in the continental mantle lithosphere by successive subductions of ancient oceanic plates and their accretions enlarging primordial continent cores. Consequent continental break-ups and assemblages of wandering micro-plates preserve fossil anisotropic fabrics and create patchwork structures of the present-day continents. Supporting arguments for such model exist in petrological and geochemical studies (Babuska and Plomerova, 2020).

How to cite: Plomerová, J.: Seismic images of the continental lithosphere, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-9250,, 2024.


  • Stephen Hicks, University College London, United Kingdom
  • Jaroslava Plomerova, Institute of Geophysics of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Czechia