Cynthia J. Ebinger


Jefferson Science Fellow, Bureau of Oceans, International Environment, and Science, US Dept. State, Marshall-Heape Chair in Geology
School of Science & Engineering
Cynthia J. Ebinger


Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Room 204 Blessey Hall
New Orleans, LA 70118

Courses Taught

EENS 1110 Planet Earth

EENS 3050 Natural Hazards and Their Mitigation

EENS 4840 Solid Earth and Planetary Geophysics


Education & Affiliations

Ph.D., MIT/Woods Hole Oceanographic Joint Program in Oceanography, 1988
M.S., MIT, 1986
B.S., Duke University, 1982


Dr. Ebinger's research interests include Earthquake Seismology, Active Tectonics, Potential Fields, Crustal Dynamics and Critical Zone Imaging for Archaeology and Geosciences. 

More detailed descriptions of this work can be found at the website of the GATR Group.

Research Projects

KIVURIFT: On 22 May 2021, following an eruption along the southern flank of Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a graben began opening southeast of the volcano in Rwanda and beneath Lake Kivu. Satellite imagery suggests at least a 10 km-long segment opened about seven meters by the end of May. This project with Georgia Tech, Penn State, Rwanda Environmental Management Authority, Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board, EAIFR, and Goma Volcano Observatory aims to investigate the magma-fault interactions achieving rift opening during and following the 2021 sequence, and to image crustal structure to understand the consequences of dike intrusion to active and time-averaged deformation. Tulane and partners maintain a temporary network of 9 seismometers, including 2 that were installed during the intrusion event, to both capture the detailed time history and kinematics of the rifting event. New and permanent seismic and 25 magnetotelluric imaging sites will enable determination of lateral variations in physical properties of the crust, and the degree of magmatic modification.
TRAILS: Turkana Rift Arrays to Investigate Lithospheric Structure. Our US-UK-Kenya-Ethiopia project in the Turkana Depression between the Ethiopian and East African plateaux combines seismic and geodetic data collection for seismic imaging, earthquake source mechanisms, surface kinematics, crustal strain rates, and lithospheric architecture.  Comparisons of data products to one another, and forward and inverse models will test basic hypotheses about the role of gravitational potential energy, inherited structure from Mesozoic rifting, and mantle plume dynamics.  

BARNZ:  Back-Arc Rifting in New Zealand.  The Taupo Volcanic Zone (TVZ) has the world’s highest silicic magma production rates, and it is a fundamental component of the Hikurangi subduction system. Uniquely, the northern TVX transitions to back-arc spreading in the Whakatane rift zone offshore.  We deployed 7 seismometers in the northern TVZ to densify the New Zealand Geonet stations, so we may distinguish between active magma intrusion vs flank uplift for long-lived earthquake swarms.  Seismicity patterns are providing new details on the distribution of magma bodies, role of fluids in crustal deformation, and kinematics of rifting in the TVZ and back-arc system.  
Crustal Loading and Causes of Intraplate Stress: The objectives of spectral analyses of regional gravity and magnetic anomaly data and earthquake catalogues are to systematically evaluate the geometries of crustal density and magnetic susceptibility contrasts (e.g., steep faults, intrusive bodies, Moho topography) giving rise to anomaly patterns. We map faults and sutures beneath New England to test fault interpretations in seismogenic zones. Our results indicate that earthquake epicenters lie within a few kilometers of steep density contrasts imaged using a variety of spectral methods. These maps include structures that are favorably oriented with respect to current stress field, and that could be reactivated.

More detailed descriptions of this work can be found at the website of the GATR Group.

Selected Publications

Musila, M.*, C. J. Ebinger, I. D. Bastow, G. Sullivan*, S. J. Oliva, E. Knappe,  M. Perry*, R. Kounoudis*, C. S. Ogden, R. Bendick, S. Mwangi*, N. Mariita, G. Kianji, E. Klein*, F. Illsley-Kemp (2023), Active deformation constraints on the Nubia-Somalia Plate Boundary through Heterogeneous Lithosphere of the Turkana Depression, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems,. 

Ebinger, C.J., J. van Wijk, L. Olaka, C. Mériaux, K. Fontijn (2023), All scales must be considered to understand rifts, Nature Geoscience, 209-210.  

Olaka, L. and C.J. Ebinger (2023), Tectonic and paleoclimatic setting for hominin evolution in East Africa, in McHenry, L., (editor), Geology and Paleoanthropology of the East African Rift, Elements, DOI: 10.2138/gselements.19.2.82, 2023.  

Kounoudis, R., I.D. Bastow, C.J. Ebinger, C. S. Ogden, R. Bendick, A. Ayele, N. Mariita, G. Kianji, G. Wigham, M. Musila*, and B. Kibret (2021), Body wave tomographic imaging of the Turkana Depression: Implications for rift development and plume-lithosphere interactions, Geochem. Geophys. Geosys., 2021GC009782, 2021.  
Zheng, W., S. Oliva, C. J. Ebinger, M. Pritchard, (2020), Aseismic deformation during extension: InSAR and seismic evidence from the 2014 Mw 5.2 earthquake near Karonga, Malawi, Geophysical Research Letters,  doi: