Advanced Geophysics Seminar: Plate Tectonics and the Deep Earth

This course is designed for graduate students and undergraduate majors. It was last taught in Spring 2018 and will be next taught in Spring 2019

This course will provide an in-depth understanding of various aspects of geophysics that are important to understand the theory of Plate Tectonics. The goal is to give you the tools you need to understand the conceptual underpinnings of plate tectonics, including the kinematics and dynamics of plate motions. We will touch on topics drawn from seismology, geodynamics, and solid mechanics, among others. This course will also cover the Earth’s deeper interior, considering the fundamental processes of Earth’s interior deformation and touching on interactions between the interior and the plates through geologic time.

Instructor: Zach Eilon
Office: Webb 2116

Topics to be covered:

  • Plate tectonics history
  • Geomagnetism
  • Plate kinematics
  • Isostasy
  • Gravity and the geoid
  • Plate thermal structure and cooling
  • Plate strength, deformation, and rheology
  • Earth’s deep structure
  • Convection in the Earth

C.M.R. Fowler, The Solid Earth: An Introduction to Global Geophysics, 2nd Ed. Cambridge University Press, 2004. (primary text for the class)  
D. Turcotte and G. Schubert, Geodynamics, 2nd Ed. Cambridge University Press, 2002. (contains mathematical underpinnings for most concepts in this course).

Work originality:
I encourage you to discuss problems for this class with your classmates, but it is absolutely imperative that any work you submit for this class is your own. Plagiarism, defined as an attempt by a student to represent the work of another as her or his own is strictly against the policies of academic fairness and integrity of this University. This means you must very clearly attribute any quotations or copied figures (citing name + year + publication of any sources). You should always mention any classmates with whom you have collaborated (a brief marginal note will suffice), and it is not EVER permitted to copy another student’s work. If you are found to be in violation of this policy, there are very serious consequences.

Guide to written work and problem sets:
I expect the work you turn in to be of high and careful quality. This means it should be legible and neatly presented, with effort made commensurate with the assigned task. You should always be aiming to do the assignments full justice, rather than trying to get away with the minimum required effort. Make sure your answers are complete, and that you have addressed all questions asked. Some more specific pointers:

For problem sets:

  • Always show your full working for mathematical problems. As well as making it much easier to judge where/if you made any errors, I will not award full marks if the logic and work-flow of the answer is not clear.
  • Make sure to properly highlight your final answer to each problem
  • Answers should be mathematically correct. I.e. if you write an “equals sign”, both things on either side of it must be equal! This sounds obvious, but is often not done, leading to avoidable errors. Get in the practice of being punctilious with your mathematics :)
  • Check your answers by doing quick, back-of-the-envelope calculations to determine whether the answer you have given is in the right order of magnitude. Always make sure it passes the “smell test”; does the answer seem like it could be right? E.g., if you are supposed to be calculating crustal thickness, and your answer is 2 m or 200 km, it is surely wrong!

For written assignments:

  • Write in clear English. Prefer short sentences.
  • Ensure all the information is correct. Cite all appropriate sources. It should be clear that you have tried to get the most in-depth information pertinent to the assignment. Beware the ease of Wikipedia!
  • Demonstrate understanding of the implications of what you are discussing/observing, beyond simply presenting the information.
  • Structure your writing. All written pieces from brief paragraphs to journal manuscripts should follow a basic rubric:
  1. Describe what is known, provide any essential context
  2. Lay out the problem or the question you seek to address
  3. Describe why this problem/question is important
  4. Describe the methodologies or the types of information gathered to address this problem
  5. Give a detailed description of any analysis results or new information you are presenting
  6. Discuss the impacts of this new data, and argue for how it changes our understanding of the problem you laid out in (2).