Richard Hobbs

Department of Earth Sciences

Hidden secrets of the ocean floor; catastrophes and major climate events which shape the world we live in today.

The talk will focus on a recent IODP (International Ocean Discovery Program) deep sea exploration project that sampled sub-seabed rocks that recorded the tectonic breakup of part of the Gondwana supercontinent between Australia, India and Antarctica some 132 million years ago and the subsequent evolution of the southwestern margin of Australia. In particular the period about 90 million years ago when the Earth’s climate was about 4°C warmer than the reference pre-industrial temperature. The rocks’ cores record an episode showing the total collapse of life in that part of the ocean called an Ocean Anoxic Event. Similar events at this time had been previously recorded mainly in and around the Atlantic Ocean but our expedition demonstrated that this was indeed a worldwide phenomenon. Finally I will show evidence a very recent catastrophic failure of the margin that caused an underwater avalanche or debris flow. IODP is the latest incarnation of the longest running international scientific research program that collects sub-seabed samples of rocks from the deep ocean by drilling using specially developed cutting tools so a intact core of rock can be recovered. The ship, JOIDES Resolution*, as well as running the coring operation is a floating earth science laboratory that allows the immediate analysis of the rock samples as soon as they are recovered.

About Richard Hobbs

Following a degree in physics at Loughborough University, Richard first moved into industry but became disillusioned about the prospects in research and development there so he returned to academia with a PhD at Durham in geophysics. He then spent 18 years working at Cambridge University during which time he ran a major UK research program into the deep structure of the Earth that included the first mapping of the Chixulub impact crater (the primary cause of the dinosaur extinction). In 2003 he moved back to Durham to continue his research and teaching. In 2021 he formally retired but retains an Emeritus position at the University.