The ten research teams involved in SUBITOP cover three highly complementary methodologies:

  1. The quantitative characterisation of deformation inherent to geological structures at different scales, in the field and in the laboratory. The analysis of crustal deformation will be performed using structural analysis, seismic line interpretation and the balancing of sections. Geological fieldwork will be integrated with low-temperature thermochronology and surface dating to constrain erosion/exhumation history and stratigraphic records of uplift and erosion. Active deformation will be evaluated using geodetic data for both horizontal and vertical components.
  2. Geomorphological analysis and landscape evolution of natural systems. Quantification of erosional processes will be provided by field analysis including mapping of Quaternary features, and quantitative geomorphological tools using digital elevation data. Low temperature thermochronology and cosmogenic radionuclide dating will calibrate rates of surface change, erosion and sedimentation.
  3. Analogue and numerical modelling of lithosphere and mantle deformation, surface processes, and fluid flow. The network assembles some of the best modelling groups in Europe, with two complementary approaches. Lithosphere scale numerical modelling using state of the art computational techniques will be used to simulate lithosphere deformation, subduction and surface erosion processes. Scaled analogue models will be set up to simulate fully-coupled mantle-lithosphere-surface systems, including deformation and erosion across time scales.

The main scientific questions, research methods, and projects are organised within two overarching themes, which contain the 15 ESR projects. One theme is dedicated to prediction and forecasting of surface topography and shallow deformation through modelling of deep processes. This is based on numerical or analogue models of the subduction system. Coupled dynamic models will be developed and applied to analyse different aspects of this system in three dimensions and at different spatial and temporal scales. The other theme is directed at unravelling the signal of deep geodynamic processes from surface observations on natural cases. Several natural test sites in Europe have been selected representing a range of tectonic processes, all including subduction at their core. Research will characterise deep and shallow sources of tectonic activity and its surface response. The strategy behind the two themes is to explore the cause/consequence and feedbacks between shallow and deep processes using a forward to inverse approach. Theme 1 (modelling) will guide and take constraints from Theme 2 (observations).