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Graduate Course: Physics of the Earth


This course focuses on the origin, evolution, and physical properties of the Earth, terrestrial planets, and moon. Topics cover origin, composition, plate tectonics, mantle convection, heat flow, and Earth’s core. It requires students reading a number of latest publications and presenting the assigned papers as a group. Students also need to take the final test.

 

Topic 1: Introduction and Origin of the Earth

The first class will focus on the origin of the Earth from the beginning of the Solar system. Not only the Earth but also other planets and moon will be discussed. This class aims to provide the students some general idea about the formation and evolution of the Earth.

 

Ref. reading: Chapter 1 in “New Theory of the Earth”

 

Topic 2: Gravity and figure of the Earth

After the introduction to the origin of the Earth, the following week will focus on the gravity field of the Earth. This class requires the students with some background in college mathematics and physics. Some new techniques which are used in recent years to study the gravity field of the Earth will be also discussed.

 

Ref. reading: Chapter 3 in “Physics of the Earth”

                     Chapter 4 in “The solid Earth: An introduction to Global Geophysics”

 Chapter 6 in “New Theory of the Earth”

 

Topic 3: Geomagnetism

Topic 4: Magnetism in Rocks and Minerals

Topics 3 and 4 will focus on the geomagnetic field of the Earth. The class will discuss both external and internal field, but will focus on the internal field. Week 3 will concentrate on the geomagnetic field generated by Earth’s core, while week 4 will discuss the geomagnetism recorded by rocks and minerals.

 

Ref. reading: Chapter 5 and 6 in “Physics of the Earth”

 

Topic 5: Sample the Earth

In Topic 5, we will discuss how to determine the composition of the bulk silicate Earth. It will start from meteorites. Then, we will move to the geological evidence and finally discuss how to use he seismic and mineralogical methods to determine the composition of the silicate Earth.

 

Ref. reading: Chapter 13 and 14 in “New Theory of the Earth”

                     Chapter 1 in “The Earth’s Mantle: Composition, Structure and Evolution”

 

Topic 6: Plate Tectonics

Topic 6 will give a brief introduction about the plate tectonics, including the history of this theory, how to evaluate the movement of plates, what kind of force driving the plate tectonics, etc.

 

Ref. reading: Chapter 2 in “The solid Earth: An introduction to Global Geophysics”

 

Topic 7: Continental Lithosphere

Topic 8: Oceanic Lithosphere

Topics 7 and 8 will focus on the composition and structure of the continental and oceanic lithosphere. The difference between these two lithosphere types will be discussed. We will also discuss the growth of these two types of lithospheres.

 

Ref. reading: Chapter 9 and 10 in “The solid Earth: An introduction to Global Geophysics”

 

Topic 9: Upper Mantle and Transition Zone

Topic 10: Lower Mantle

In Topics 9 and 10, the composition and structure of the Earth’s mantle will be the major topics. The class will begin with the global seismic image of the Earth’s mantle, following by the mineralogical evidence for the composition of the region. At the end, the class will focus on several hot topics in recent geophysical research.

 

Ref. reading: Chapter 8 in “The solid Earth: An introduction to Global Geophysics”

                     Chapter 7 and 9 in “The Earth’s Mantle: Composition, Structure and Evolution”

     

Topic 11: Subduction Zone and Mantle Convection

In Topic 11, the class moves to the dynamic behavior of the Earth. It will start from the structure of the sinking slabs, discuss our current understanding on the fate of the slabs, and how it affects the mantle convection.

 

Ref. reading: Chapter 9 in “The solid Earth: An introduction to Global Geophysics”

                     Chapter 8 in “The Earth’s Mantle: Composition, Structure and Evolution”

  

Topic 12: Mantle Convection from Geochemical Prospects

Topic 12 will provides a different view of mantle convection using geochemical methods. In this class, students are expected to learn how to combine research results from different fields.

 

Ref. reading: Volume 7.01 in “Treatise of Geophysics”

 

Topic 13: Heat and Mantle Temperature

In Topic 13, the heat budget, heat flow and hot spots of the Earth will be the major topics. Knowledge of the heat budget of the Earth is essential in understanding the evolution and current dynamic behavior of the Earth.

 

Ref. reading: Chapter 6 in “The solid Earth: An introduction to Global Geophysics”

  Chapter 9 in “Physics of the Earth”

 

Topic 14: Earth’s Core Formation

Topic 15: Core: Shape, Composition and Dynamics

Topics 14 and 15 will focus on the formation, evolution, composition and structure of the Earth’s core. Some new discoveries reported in recent literatures will also be discussed.

 

Ref. reading: Volume 1.19, 2.05, 9.03 in “Treatise of Geophysics”

  

Reference book:

New Theory of the Earth (D.L.Anderson)

The Earth’s Mantle: Composition, Structure and Evolution (I. Jackson)

Physics of the Earth (F.D. Stacey)

The Solid Earth: An Introduction to Global Geophysics (C.M.R. Fowler)

Treatise of Geophysics

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/referenceworks/9780444527486

 

 

Evaluation

Quiz, 10%; Class presentation (4-6 students as a group), 40%; Final, 50%

 


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