Geology and Geophysics pages

Geology & Geophysics Group

Gulf of Corinth

Contact: Dr Lisa McNeil

Corinth landscape

The Gulf of Corinth is a continental rift in the earliest stages of the rifting process. The region is partially onshore and partially offshore and the morphology of the landscape is controlled by active normal faults. To understand the region, we therefore integrate marine geophysical and geological techniques with terrestrial techniques (tectonic geomorphology, paleoseismology, sedimentology, Quaternary dating, etc). Our general aims are to identify major fault systems, quantify their slip and assess how the Corinth rift system has evolved in space and time.

Our research involves collaboration with a number of different groups worldwide, including the Universities of Leeds, East Anglia and Manchester (UK), University of Patras and Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (Greece) and Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (Italy). Funding for this research comes from the Natural Environment Research Council, the Royal Society, and the University of Southampton. We are grateful to the Greek authorities for permission to carry out the various projects.

Above right: Southern coast of the Gulf of Corinth, showing the uplifted footwall block of the Eastern Eliki fault to the right and the subsiding hangingwall block and active Gilbert fan delta systems to the left.


PhD students working on this project:

Carol Cotterill
Thesis title: 'A high resolution Holocene fault activity history of the Aigion shelf, Gulf of Corinth, Greece'
Completed July, 2006 and currently working for the British Geological Survey.

Rebecca Bell
Thesis title: 'Structural evolution and active tectonics of the western Gulf of Corinth, Greece'



The Gulf of Corinth is one of the most seismically active regions of Europe. Therefore our investigations contribute not only to understanding the rifting process but also to assessment of earthquake hazard. The Gulf of Corinth is thought to have initiated within the last few million years. Initial work suggested that the faults dominating the landscape on the southern shore controlled the rift forming a half graben tilted to the south. Further data collection, particularly offshore, has revealed a more complex fault geometry of half and full graben with changing structural geometry along the rift axis and during the short rift history. Many studies have used both onshore and offshore stratigraphic markers to estimate slip rates on the major faults indicating how strain is distributed and giving some indication of potential earthquake magnitude and frequency.

Corinth bathymetry


The Gulf of Corinth is a rare example of an active rift in the very earliest stages of extension without overprinting of subsequent tectonic activity. Therefore it offers one of the best opportunities to understand how continental rifting initiates and evolves.

Left: Multibeam swath bathymetry of the western offshore Gulf indicating major fault systems and submarine channels.



Current and Past Projects

  • Estimating fault slip rates from tectonic geomorphology, e.g., uplifted footwall marine sea level highstand terraces and deposits. Studies of the Eastern Eliki fault indicate uplift rates of ~1 mm/yr translating to likely fault slip rates of ~4-6 mm/yr (McNeill and Collier, 2004; DeMartini et al., 2004).
  • Paleoseismological trenching of active faults to determine earthquake history, magnitude of fault slip and investigations of coseismic liquefaction. This work has indicated recurrence intervals of ~200-600 years on the Eastern Eliki fault and the impact of fault movement on river courses (e.g., McNeill et al., 2005a).
  • Structure and evolution of the western Gulf of Corinth: integrating high resolution marine geophysical data with onshore geomorphic studies. This study is ongoing and aims to determine how the structure of the western rift has evolved through time, when and where new faults have initiated and how these processes relate to the development of the entire rift (e.g., McNeill et al., 2005b; see also Rebecca Bell’s web page).
  • Development of a young normal fault, the Aigion fault, using high resolution pseudo 3D seismic reflection data: fault growth, fault tip development and understanding the most recent phase of Corinth rifting (Cotterill, 2006; McNeill et al., submitted).
  • Quaternary paleoenvironment and structural development of the Alkyonides Gulf, eastern Gulf of Corinth. Correlation of marine terraces with sea level curves suggests uniform uplift of this peninsula not principally driven by a single normal fault and evidence of uplift rate varying within the last 200 ka (Leeder et al., 2003; 2005).
  • Quaternary dating techniques to quantify fault slip rates, e.g., radiocarbon, U series, cosmogenic nuclide exposure dating (e.g., McNeill et al., 2005a; in prep.; Leeder et al., 2005).

Interpreted seismic reflection profile across the western rift and major syn-rift sedimentary units (Bell et al., in prep) linked to bathymetric and topographic data. Major faults labelled in red.



  • Cotterill, C.J., 2006, A high resolution Holocene fault activity history of the Aigion shelf, Gulf of Corinth, Greece: PhD thesis, University of Southampton.
  • De Martini, P.M., Pantosti, D., Palyvos, N., Lemeille, F., McNeill, L., and Collier, R., 2004, Slip rates of the Aigion and Eliki faults from uplifted marine terraces, Corinth Gulf, Greece: Comptes-Rendus – Geosciences, 336, 325-334.
  • Leeder, M., McNeill, L., Collier, R., Portman, C., Rowe, P., Andrews, J., 2003, Testing hypotheses for rift-margin tectonics: Uplifting late-Quaternary shorelines, Corinth Rift, Greece: Geophysical Research Letters, 30, 1611, doi:10.1029/2003GL017382.
  • Leeder, M.R., Portman, C., Andrews, J.E., Collier, R.E.Ll., Finch, E., Gawthorpe, R.L., McNeill, L.C., Perez-Arlucea, M., and Rowe, P., 2005, Normal faulting and crustal deformation, Alkyonides Gulf and Perachora peninsula, eastern Gulf of Corinth rift basin, Greece: Journal of Geological Society London, 162, 549-561.
  • McNeill, L.C., and Collier, R.E.Ll., 2004, Footwall uplift rates of the Eastern Eliki Fault, Gulf of Corinth, Greece, inferred from Holocene and Pleistocene terraces: Journal Geological Society of London, v. 161, p. 81-92.
  • McNeill, L.C., Collier R.E.Ll., Pantosti, D., De Martini, P., & D'Addezio, G., 2005a, Recent history of the Eastern Eliki Fault, Gulf of Corinth: Geomorphology, paleoseismology and impact on paleoenvironments: Geophysical Journal International, 161, 154-166.
  • McNeill, L., Cotterill, C., Stefatos, A., Henstock, T., Bull, J., Collier, R., Papatheoderou, G., Ferentinos G., and Hicks, S. 2005b, Active faulting within the offshore western Gulf of Corinth, Greece: implications for models of continental rift deformation: Geology, 33, 241-244.
  • McNeill, L.C., Cotterill, C.J., Bull, J.M., Henstock, T.J., Bell, R., and Stefatos, A., submitted, Geometry and slip rate of the Aigion fault, a young normal fault system in the western Gulf of Corinth: Geology.
  • McNeill, L.C., Collier, R.E.L., and Stone, J., in prep, Slip rates of the Eastern Gulf of Corinth (Greece) Skinos and Pisia normal faults from 36Cl cosmogenic surface exposure dating: Implications for Fault Displacement and Rift Models.