Volcanic and Tectonic Activity in the Red Sea Region (2004-2013): Insights from Satellite Radar Interferometry and Optical Imagery

  • Wenbin Xu

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Studying recent volcanic and tectonic events in the Red Sea region is important for improving our knowledge of the Red Sea plate boundary and for regional geohazard assessments. However, limited information has been available about the past activity due to insufficient in-situ data and remoteness of some of the activity. In this dissertation, I have used satellite remote sensing to derive new information about several recent volcanic and tectonic events in the Red Sea region. I first report on three volcanic eruptions in the southern Red Sea, the 2007-8 Jebel at Tair eruption and the 2011-12 & 2013 Zubair eruptions, which resulted in formation of two new islands. Series of high- resolution optical images were used to map the extent of lava flows and to observe and analyze the growth and destructive processes of the new islands. I used Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) data to study the evolution of lava flows, to estimate their volumes, as well as to generate ground displacements maps, which were used to model the dikes that fed the eruptions. I then report on my work of the 2009 Harrat Lunayyir dike intrusion and the 2004 Tabuk earthquake sequence in western Saudi Arabia. I used InSAR observations and stress calculations to study the intruding dike at Harrat Lunayyir, while I combined InSAR data and Bayesian estimation to study the Tabuk earthquake activity. The key findings of the thesis are: 1) The recent volcanic eruptions in the southern Red Sea indicate that the area is magmatically more active than previously acknowledged and that a rifting episode has been taken place in the southern Red Sea; 2) Stress interactions between an ascending dike intrusion and normal faulting on graben-bounding faults above the dike can inhibit vertical propagation of magma towards the surface; 3) InSAR observations can improve locations of shallow earthquakes and fault model uncertainties are useful to associate earthquake activity with mapped faults; 4). The successful application of satellite remote sensing technologies in studying the recent volcanic and tectonic processes in the Red Sea region implies that remote sensing data are an important resource for the local authorities to monitor geohazards.
Date of AwardApr 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Physical Science and Engineering
SupervisorSigurjon Jonsson (Supervisor)


  • Volcano
  • Red Sea
  • InSAR
  • Earthquake
  • new island
  • Remote Sensing

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