Exploring AEON, The Africa Earth Observatory Network

EarthzineEarth Observation, Original

White-Headed Madagascar Lemur, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Mount Cameroon, Wikimedia CommonsThe Africa Earth Observatory Network (AEON) is a complex collaboration of organizations focused on every aspect of Earth Observation.åÊ Through several distinct research programs, the organization is digging deeply into the morphological history of the contintent; exploring volcanic processes; uncovering new information about the “conflict diamond” industry, and linking sustainable practices to the technological capabilities of major research institutions.

Dr. Manga Njome is AEON’s first senior fellow to help raise awareness of Africa’s active volcanoes through a project called Mount Cameroon: the African ‰ÛÏVolcanometer.‰Û At AEON, he will study Mt. Cameroon through direct and remote volcanological observations, as well as sampling and petrological studies on erupted materials. Dr. Njome will track volcanic processes to understand the magma forces and dynamics of Mt. Cameroon’s plumbing system. This work will be crucial for future predictions of potentially devastating eruptions and will serve to establish an African ‰Û÷volcanometer’ as an early warning system.

The Kalahari Drilling Program involves drilling at six sites throughout the Kalahari Plateau, to investigate topics including weathering history, geologic history and paleoclimatology.

Topographic map of Africa, Wikimedia Commons


“Inkaba” is an Xhosa word meaning “total interconnectivity.” Inkaba yeAfrica is a German-South African collaborative Earth Science initiative that is multidisciplinary and intercultural.

Three teams of Earth scientists from leading institutes in both countries are taking on the global challenges of climate change, sustainable resources, clean water and energy as they relate to the continent of Africa. The project’s focuses include:

‰Û¢ Sustainable resources (energy, clean water, soil);

‰Û¢ Manageable risks (mine safety, climate change, tsunami early warning);

‰Û¢ Earth observation and monitoring (satellite systems, magnetic field, geo-history);

‰Û¢ Human capacity building (next-generation scientists; public awareness).

The Inkaba yeAfrica program is built around three research categories:

Heart of Africa studies energy transfer from Earth’s core to the surface and beyond.

Margins of Africa studies the causes, mechanisms and consequences of continental break-up and the development of the southern oceans.

Living Africa focuses on ecosystems and climate change; soil systems and land use; and mineral resources, mining and the environment.

Alluvial diamond miner in Sierra Leone, Wikimedia Commons


!Khure Africa explores the dynamic co-evolution of Earth and life and their links to tectonics and climate change. Research focuses on South-Central Africa, including Madagascar, and involves researchers in South Africa and France from diverse fields within the Earth and life sciences.

A set of !Khure Africa Projects called Building relief, climate change and evolution includes six sub-projects focused on:

‰Û¢ Tectonic geomorphology and climatic influence on Plio-Pleistocene hominin environments in southern Africa;

‰Û¢ Evolution of African rift propagation into Southern Africa;

‰Û¢ Plateau uplift, epeirogeny and evolution of climate and biodiversity;

‰Û¢ Large igneous provinces, impacts and climate change;

‰Û¢ A re-study of Madagascar-Africa breakup and evolution of Lemurs;

‰Û¢ Sun and Earth’s magnetic fields and climate change.

A second set of six projects are under the heading Understanding ancient Africa, Life and Earth:

‰Û¢ Toward a characterization of ‰ÛÏconflict diamonds;‰Û

‰Û¢ Stabilization and evolution of the first continents;

‰Û¢ Archean life: Early life and ancient life-support systems on the Kaapvaal craton;

‰Û¢ Anatomy of an old giant impact crater using magnetic imaging;

‰Û¢ The tectonic framework of Southern Africa interpreted from gravity and aeromagnetic data;

‰Û¢ Paleomagnetic study of South African Paleozoic and Precambrian formations: ancient ice ages andåÊ åÊåÊåÊåÊåÊåÊåÊ geodynamics.

AEON is just one of many Earth Observation projects and programs now underway in Africa. Earthzine has covered many related stories over the past year, including:

‰Û¢ South Africa Promotes Techno-Scientific Development of Its People To Address Human Needs

‰Û¢ Power Potential and Pitfalls on the Congo: Developing Africa’s Cleanest and Largest Hydropower Opportunity

‰Û¢ South Africa’s Polar-Orbiting Ploughshares ‰ÛÒ A National Space Agency could help it become a regional powerhouse in Earth observation

‰Û¢ SumbandilaSat EO satellite shows South Africa’s Space Mettle

‰Û¢ Space-bound in South Africa: A Down-to-Earth Conversation With Dr. Phil Mjwara