Solid Earth Geophysics

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Solid Earth Geophysics

Geological Sciences 1610

Fall Semester 2010

Schedule: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, D hour 11:00 - 11:50 (M/M 317)

Professors: Don Forsyth (G/C 158, x3-1699),

Ved Lekic (G/C 161, x3-3185),

Teaching Assistant: Chris Havlin (G/C 168, x3-1701)

Text: The Solid Earth: An Introduction to Global Geophysics, by C.M.R. Fowler, Cambridge University Press, 2nd Edition


This course will provide a quantitative introduction to solid earth geophysics. We will discuss the theoretical underpinnings of various geophysical methods and will emphasize how different types of data are used to constrain Earth structure at a variety of scales. We will illustrate these concepts with examples of global and regional structure and will cover relevant tectonic phenomena (e.g. plate motions, thermal subsidence, etc.).

The emphasis in lectures will be on global scale structures and processes, spherical harmonic descriptions of the deviations from average global structure, and the primary properties of crust and lithosphere. We will also develop Fourier Series methods for representation of local variations and for solution of the basic partial differential equations that describe geophysical phenomena such as wave propagation, heat flow and gravity/magnetic anomalies.

The text is excellent in covering plate tectonics and the applications of geophysics to lithospheric structure. Our emphasis in class will be more on global properties, but the book will help fill in some of areas that I can't fully cover in lecture. I will try to give you some more recent references and results at appropriate points. I can't cover everything in class that you should know, especially descriptive material, so read the text as a supplement. The text will give you a different point of view, as well as additional examples, and cover some areas that we will skip in class that might include good possible topics for your term paper.

Lecture Schedule

Textbook sections

Earth's shape and structure from geoid and gravity fields

September 1 Introduction to the structure of the Earth Chap 1, 2.1,2.7


3 Potential theory: some basic concepts 5.2

6 Labor Day - no classes

8 Moment of inertia of the earth

10 Shape of the earth 5.3,5.4

13 Precession of rotation axis (8.1.2)

15 Spherical harmonics

17 Geoid and gravity anomalies 5.5,Plates 6-8

20 Laplace's equation, Fourier transforms, and Appendix 1

upward or downward continuation

22 Gravity anomalies, topography and local isostasy 5.6

24 Admittance, lithosphere flexure and regional isostasy 5.7

27 Review and homework discussion

29 First Hour Exam, on gravity


October 1 The Earth's magnetic field 3.1.2 4 Magnetic reversals and paleomagnetic poles 3.1.3

6 Paleomagnetism, rock magnetism, magnetic anomalies

8 Magnetic anomalies and seafloor spreading 3.2

11 Columbus Day Holiday

13 History of earth's magnetic field, field at the core

Seismology and Earth's seismic velocity structure

15 Fermat's principle, seismic data 4.1

18 Ray theory and seismic velocity structure 4.2.7, appendix 3, 8.1.1

20 Stress and strain Appendix 2

22 Elastic wave equation and body waves Appendix2

25 Surface waves and normal modes 8.1.

27 Anisotropy

29 Global and regional models of seismic velocity 8.1.4

November 1 Global models and convection

3 Earthquake sources 4.2

5 Seismic reflection 4.4.1,4.4.2

8 Seismic refraction and crustal structure 4.3

10 Second Hour Exam, on seismology, geomagnetism

Heat flow and thermal structure

12 Mechanisms of heat flow and geotherm constraints 7.2

15 Simple geothermal models 7.3,7.4

17 More on thermal models

Term paper proposal due

19 Thermal structure of oceanic lithosphere 7.5

22 Thermal structure of continental lithosphere 7.6

24 Basin subsidence 10.3.2-10.3.4, 10.3.6

26 Thanksgiving Break

29 Global temperature structure 7.7,8.3.1

December 1 Plate tectonics and convection in the mantle and core 8.2

3 Maxwell's equations and generation of the magnetic field 8.3

6 Magnetotellurics and conductivity structure

8 Reading period ends, Term papers due, 1700

10 9:00 am Final Hour Exam, on heat flow and thermal structure


Homework assignments 40%

Two in class exams 30%

Term paper 15%

Final hour exam 15%

Each of the three exams will contain a question based on material from the assigned reading that may not have been covered in lecture.

The term paper is an opportunity to investigate a topic from the book or lectures that particularly intrigues you. We expect that you will read a number of research articles and discuss them analytically, compare their approaches, etc. We are not expecting original research, but we encourage simple calculations and critical thinking. The main body of the text should be approximately six to eight pages, not counting figures, figure captions, tables or references. It should include an abstract and follow the format of the Journal of Geophysical Research. Please schedule an appointment to discuss your term paper proposal sometime before November 16.

The final examination will be simply a third hour exam on the material of the last third of the semester, although there may be a question integrating knowledge from earlier in the semester.

Assignments are due at 5 pm on the designated date. These deadlines are firm. Late assignments handed in within two weeks of the due date will be penalized by 20%; assignments handed in more than two weeks after the due date will be penalized by 50%. All coursework must be handed in by the final exam to receive credit.

Some additional text references:

Turcotte, D. L., and G. Schubert, Geodynamics, (2nd Edition) Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Bott, M., The Interior of the Earth, Elsevier, 1982.

De Bremacker, J.-C., Geophysics: The Earth's Interior, Wiley, 1985.

Garland, G. D., Introduction to Geophysics - Mantle, Core and Crust, W. B. Saunders and Co., 1979.

Lowrie, W., Fundamentals of Geophysics, (2nd Edition) Cambridge University Press, 2007

Stacey, F.D. and P.MN. Davis, Physics of the Earth, (4th Edition), Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Sleep, N.H., and K. Fujita, Principles of Geophysics, Blackwell Science, 1997.


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