EPS 108: Geodynamics

Syllabus, Spring 2015

Please note that Michael Manga will be at sea on the Roger Revelle (studying the submarine Havre volcano in the Kermadec arc that produced a large eruption in 2012) and will be away from March 24 to April 18. The schedule of lectures and labs may seem a bit irregular but is adapted to the schedule of the ship and ensures that we cover everything we should without sacrificing content and order.

The catalog description reads: ``Basic principles in studying the physical properties of earth materials and the dynamic processes of the earth. Examples are drawn from tectonics, mechanics or earthquakes, etc., to augment course material.'' From the more detailed outline below, it will be apparent that the emphasis is on the dynamics of geological and geophysical processes, rather than properties of earth materials.

The outline below also contains a list of topics to be covered and reading assignments (and sometimes suggested supplementary reading).

Class meeting times:

Formal lectures are held Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10:00 am - 11:00 am, and Wednesdays from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm, in McCone 265. Three quarters of the lecture periods will be used for covering class material via lectures. The other classes will be used for labs and discussions.


Physics 7a or equivalent; Math 53 or 54 or equivalent; or permission of instructor. Please note that we do solve differential equations, and will do some vector calculus.

Text and notes:

D.L. Turcotte and G. Schubert, Geodynamics, 3rd edition, Cambridge University Press, 2013 (prices on amazon.com are $89.33 for the paperback edition). The second edition is a fine substitute, but it will not include the matlab-based questions and chapters. There are probably lots of used versions of the 2nd edition floating around and it is much less expensive.

I will also refer to Schubert et al. (Mantle Convection), Davies (Dynamic Earth), Jaupart and Mareschal (Heat Generation and Transport in Earth), Watts (Isostasy and flexure of the lithosphere), and Cox and Hart (Plate tectonics, How it works). These other 5 books are on reserve in the Earth Science library
The course will follow the structure of Turcotte and Schubert quite closely.


Course evaluation:

Term project:

The term project should address some topic or issue in geodynamics. Ideally the topic is not one covered in class because during the scheduled exam period you will present an overview of your term project to the class (3 minutes allowed, only). You are encouraged to think more broadly than simply reviewing the literature -- you could outline an approach to addressing an unresolved question, actaully solve a problem, perform some numerical calculations, do some lab experiments, come up with a matlab-based exercise or question related to geodynamics, interpret data with what we learned in class . . . . Regardless of what you do, you will need to write an abstract. Please also see other guides for writing abstracts. The final term project will be submitted in a format and length similar to Geophysical Research Letters papers. Templates and length limitations for these papers be downloaded by the journal homepage (follow links from AGU homepage).


Weeks 1 and 2 (January 21 am, 21 pm, January 23, January 26, January 28 am): Plate tectonics

Weeks 2-4 (January 28 pm, January 30, February 9, February 11 am, February 11 pm, first test: February 13) Stress, strain and elastic deformation, and first test Week 5-6 (February 18 am, February 18 pm, February 20, February 23, February 25 am, February 25 pm) Heat transfer

Weeks 6-8 (February 27, March 2, March 4 am, March 4 pm, March 6, March 9, March 11 am, March 11 pm, March 13) Fluid Mechanics

Week 9 (March 16, March 18 am, March 18 pm, second test on March 20) Gravity and second test Weeks 10-12 (March 20, April 1, April 3, April 6, April 8, April 10, April 13, April 15 and April 17) Labs using matlab Week 13 (April 20, April 22 am, April 22 pm) Porous Media Weeks 13-14 (April 24, April 27, April 29 am) Rheology of geological materials and faulting Week 14 (April 29, FIELD TRIP morning of April 30, third test May 1) Rotation, field trip, and third test The scheduled final exam is Tuesday May 12 from 3-6 pm. We will use this slot for presentation of term projects.

Useful links

Return to Michael's home page