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Unit information: Global Geophysics in 2018/19

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Unit name Global Geophysics
Unit code EASC30064
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Juliet Biggs
Open unit status Not open
  • EASC20006 Structural Geology
  • EASC20034 Mineralogy and Petrology
  • EASC20035 Imaging and Mapping the Earth


School/department School of Earth Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science


The Earth is a dynamic system that is driven by heat escaping from the planet. The objective of this unit is to learn how the process works and its relationship to the Earth's physical and chemical structure.

The course will address the initial development of the Earth and its evolution to the present mode of heat transport: convection in the mantle and core. This convection drives phenomena such as the geomagnetic field and plate tectonics. The structure and motion of the plates will be analysed and put into a regional context through exploration of various key tectonic settings.

The unit will consider how tectonic setting influences the constitution of metamorphic and igneous rocks, and this topic will be explored through the concepts of chemical equilibrium, the phase rule, and crystallization from liquids. Through this framework, students will be introduced to some of the fundamental discussion and debates in tectonic and geodynamic research today.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, you will be able to:

  • calculate relative plate motions and reconstruct past positions of plates
  • understand earthquake focal mechanisms and interpret the local tectonic information that they convey
  • apply the principles of isostasy to continental rifts and basins
  • explain the relationships among various tectonic settings and the characteristics of the associated rocks
  • apply qualitative and quantitative approaches to explain the compositional variety of igneous rock suites
  • use geochemical observations to deduce information about mantle structure and dynamics
  • evaluate the importance of various energy sources in driving aspects of Earth’s planetary evolution
  • apply physical principles and solve simple differential equations to estimate temperature, pressure and density profiles in terrestrial planets
  • describe geophysical and other evidence supporting the current understanding of Earth’s interior structure and processes including convection, geomagnetism, heat flow and phase changes
  • research a related topic and give a short oral presentation based on your research

Teaching details

24 lectures, 8 practicals and a 1-day mini-conference

Assessment Details

3 hour open book assessment during the course (60%), and individual presentations (40%).

The objective of the individual presentation is to identify an open scientific question about a topic/region from the literature and present the background and motivation for future research in that area. Presentations will be expected to last approximately 5 minutes.

Reading and References


  • (TS) Turcotte & Schubert (1982 or 2002). Geodynamics. Cambridge Press.
  • (SW) Stein & Wysession (2003). An introduction to seismology, earthquakes and earth structure. Blackwell Publishing.
  • (PA) Philpotts, A. and Ague, J. (2009). Principles of Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology, Cambridge.
  • (KV) Kearey, P., Klepis, K.A., and Vine, F.J., (2009), Global Tectonics, Wiley-Blackwell.
  • (F) Fowler, C.M.R., (2004), The Solid Earth, An Introduction to Global Geophysics. Cambridge University Press

Further Reading:

  • (SD) Stacey, F. & Davis, P. (2008). Physics of the Earth. Cambridge University Press.