Research news and awards

Latest news about our research. Project progress and collaboration. Awards and achievements.


US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has launched MagQuest, an innovation challenge to advance how we measure Earth's magnetic field. The challenge is seeking solutions for geomagnetic data collection for the World Magnetic Model.

Enter by 16th May.

22 March 2019

New research identifies the role of the Indian Summer Monsoon on global climate change

A study led by researchers at The Open University (OU) with contributions from the British Geological Survey (BGS) has revealed new insights to help understand the historical importance of the Indian Summer Monsoon. Newly generated records of the Indian Summer Monsoon in put into context with published climate data, identified how the monsoon helped propagate warmth and moisture between the southern hemisphere with the northern hemisphere and thereby promoted global deglaciation.

18 March 2019

Seismic trace

A sequence of small earthquakes was recorded near Newdigate, Surrey, between 1 April 2018 and 28 February 2019.

Further information: Earthquakes near Newdigate, Surrey

4 March 2019

Rock specimen of shale (P521463)

Methane has been detected at the BGS-University of Manchester greenhouse gas monitoring station near Cuadrilla’s shale gas operations at Preston New Road, near Little Plumpton, Lancashire.

Enhanced methane concentration in the air east of the Cuadrilla site was recorded on 7th December 2018 and again between 11th and 17th January 2019. Analysis of the monitoring data indicates that this was due to the emission of non-combusted methane from the shale gas site.

The peak concentration of methane observed, which was in the January 2019 emission, exceeded 10,000 parts per billion (ppb). To put this into context, the typical atmospheric concentration of methane in this area has been observed to be in the range 1857 to 2544 (ppb).

The monitoring being carried out is part of the BGS-led environmental monitoring project which is jointly funded the BGS’s National Capability programme and a grant awarded by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

This project represents the first independent, integrated monitoring programme set up to characterise the environmental baseline and any subsequent changes in areas where shale gas development is taking place. The monitoring has continued the first hydraulic fracturing operations at the Preston New Road shale gas site.

Data analysis in the report was conducted by Dr Jacob Shaw (University of Manchester) with Dr Grant Allen (University of Manchester) who was responsible for the supervision of the greenhouse gas component of the environmental monitoring project. Professor Rob Ward (BGS) is overall project manager.

Download report:

Methane enhancements detected at Little Plumpton air monitoring site

Download the methane data:

Methane data from Little Plumpton 01-12-18 to 17-02-19

Project web pages:

Environmental baseline monitoring in Lancashire

Link to Frequently Asked Questions:

Lancashire Monitoring Programme FAQs

For further information contact:

Dr Grant Allen, University of Manchester

27 February 2019

Deposit data
The British Geological Survey (BGS) have been actively encouraging the deposit of open data via the Data Deposit Portal for a number of years, through projects like the ASK Network (Accessing Subsurface Knowledge) and more recently through the Dig to Share Project. The Environment Agency (EA) are the latest organisation to request their ground investigation data to be deposited with the BGS as open data.

The Dig to Share Project is a joint project between Atkins, Morgan Sindall and BGS, funded by i3P. The project’s aim is to encourage the deposit of geotechnical data, particularly in AGS form (the standard format for ground investigation data). There is an estimated 80% of site investigation data hidden because it is never deposited in a national repository, and it is estimated that unlocking this data and creating a culture of sharing could save large infrastructure projects millions of pounds. The Dig to Share Project has been investigating the barriers to depositing this untapped data and found the major barriers to this are knowing who owns the data. It seems all too common that depositing data is seen as an afterthought once a project is complete.

Engaging with organisations like the EA, who instigate ground investigation work, targets the data at source and alleviates the problems identified by the Project. The EA instructs its consultant to deposit the data with the BGS and as part of the contract for the work, the job is in essence is not complete until the data is deposited with the BGS.

The EA has worked with one of their main consultants JACOBS as well as the BGS to enable the sharing and unlocking of thousands of ground investigation reports and borehole records. This has been the result of dialogue between EA/BGS/Jacobs going back to 2008. The Open Government Partnership (2011) has taken time to be realised in the geotechnical industry but this agreement paves the way for other government bodies to release their ground investigation data freely under an Open Government License.

Find out more about how to deposit data

21 February 2019

Prof Michael Stephenson
Prof Mike Stephenson of the British Geological Survey (BGS) has been appointed president of the Deep Time Digital Earth (DDE) programme, a prestigious and possibly world-changing new initiative in geology. This is the first 'Recognised Big Science Program' of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS).

The IUGS is the premier geological organisation in the world, with 121 national members. Founded in 1961, IUGS is a member of the International Council of Science and promotes and encourages the study of geological problems, especially those of worldwide significance, and supports and facilitates international and interdisciplinary cooperation in the earth sciences.

The new programme, which will seek to revolutionise geological data, is being discussed at an international meeting in February in Beijing, China, drawing geoscientists from across the world.

The DDE programme's aim is simple but very ambitious: to harmonise 'deep-time' digital geological data. Deep-time data are data relating to the changing processes that the Earth has experienced through the millions of years of geological time. They include data on the evolution of life and climate, tectonic plate movement and the evolution of the planet's geography. Through DDE, data will be made available in easily used 'hubs' providing insights into the distribution and value of earth resources and materials, as well as earth hazards. Data brought together in new ways may provide novel glimpses into the Earth's geological past and its future.

An example of how DDE will work concerns the evolutionary history of the biosphere. Previous analyses of long-term paleobiodiversity change were mostly at a resolution of about 10 million years, which is too coarse to reveal fine details of past biodiversity changes. Linked databases in DDE could provide high-resolution (10-100 kyr) diversity patterns. In the realm of minerals, DDE could provide integration of database systems for mapping clusters of porphyry copper deposits (PCDs) by linking georeferenced plate motion and geometric properties of subducted slab data.

Data and databases in dispersed form will come together through DDE at a time when informatics and computing are evolving fast and may help to solve some of the biggest geoscience questions that still remain.

The project has an ambitious time frame but aims to report its first progress at the 36th International Geological Congress in New Delhi in March 2020.

If you want to know more, read Prof Stephenson's blog Setting 'long tail' geological data free.

20 February 2019

Dr Ciaran Beggan

Scientists have updated the World Magnetic Model, which underlies navigation for ships and planes, nearly a year ahead of schedule because the magnetic poles have wandered more quickly than expected in recent years. In an interview with Ian Sample at The Guardian, the BGS's Dr Ciaran Beggan talks about why his team tracks the pole and what we can learn from its rapidly changing position.

Where on earth is North? – Science Weekly podcast

8 February 2019

BGS staff member Michael Stephenson

Professor Mike Stephenson, Director of Science and Technology at the BGS, will be a keynote speaker at the ‘Next steps for the unconventional oil and gas market in the UK’ conference in Westminster on 4th April 2019. This timely conference, chaired by Lord Truscott, will focus on policy and planning, key infrastructure challenges, environmental standards and assurances, and community and stakeholder engagement.

Further details on the Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum website:

Next steps for the unconventional oil and gas market in the UK

7 February 2019

Rock specimen of shale (P521463)

The British Geological Survey attended a briefing on shale gas exploration in the UK at The Science Media Centre on 22 January 2019.

Shale gas exploration resumed in Lancashire in October 2018. This was paused several times after tremors were detected. What does the evidence say about fracking in the UK?

Professor Rob Ward, Director of Groundwater Science said: "Although we understand the environmental risks associated with shale gas operations, there is still a need to better quantify them for air, water and seismicity, and how they evolve over the lifetime of a shale gas well or well field. A new BGS-led research project (Equipt4Risk) funded by UKRI is addressing this with the aim of developing an integrated risk assessment and management framework for shale gas in the UK."

More information on Equipt4Risk:

Dr Brian Baptie, Head of Seismology said: "Hydraulic fracturing of unconventional gas reservoirs is generally accompanied by microseismicity. Experience worldwide suggests that these events are usually too small to be felt, however, on a few occasions larger events have occurred. As a result, measures are required to reduce the risk of seismic events that may cause concern for public health and safety. Current regulations require operators to stop hydraulic fracturing if an event with a magnitude of 0.5 ML or above occurs during operations. The ground vibrations from earthquakes with magnitudes of up to 2.0 ML are usually too small to be felt by people unless they are very close to the epicentre, and are normally only detected by sensitive equipment. Similarly, earthquakes with magnitudes of less than around 4.0 ML are unlikely to result in damage. As a result, the limit is a conservative one and significantly lower than the limit imposed by other regulatory authorities around the world. This could be raised without resulting in an unreasonable increase in the risk of ground motions that may represent nuisance or cause damage."

More information on BGS shale gas research:

23 January 2019

Ocean image
British Geological Survey and Heriot-Watt scientists are research partners in the ambitious, £20 million UKRI GCRF One Ocean Hub, which will transform the global response to the urgent challenges facing our oceans.
From plastic pollution to rising sea levels and acidification to over-fishing, the threats facing our oceans are well-known.
The UKRI GCRF One Ocean Hub will bring together the competing interests and agendas of the individuals, groups and organisations that rely on our oceans to realise a vision of an integrated and sustainable approach to managing their use.
A key priority will be to ensure the knowledge, experiences and rights of those most-reliant upon the oceans, and disproportionately affected by our failure to protect them, are recognised.
The team will set out to uncover the less tangible values of the ocean, and the hidden 'trade-offs' in ocean decision-making.
The goal is to ensure decision-making is based on evidence of risks and opportunities among competing ocean uses.
Find out more

22 January 2019