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Research Activities

Introduction

Research into the structure and dynamics of the Earth uses a range of modern physical and mathematical techniques grouped into four themes of Geodynamics, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics and the Centre for Advanced Data Inference (CADI).
Work in Earth Physics spans observational, theoretical, computational, and data oriented studies that are all directed towards understanding the structure and processes in solid and fluid Earth, and their environmental consequences. The four themes in Earth Physics have considerable cross-interaction, particularly through a common use of computational methods. An example of cross-interaction comes from the combination of geodetic and seismic techniques to elucidate the patterns of deformation associated with large earthquake sequences near New Britain, PNG.

Dr G.F. Davies has been awarded the inaugural Love Medal in Geodynamics by the European Geosciences Union and will receive his medal at the General Assembly in Vienna in April 2005 .Dr J. Braun left RSES in November to take up a Professorship at the University of Rennes, France (but retains an Adjunct position), in consequence Dr M. Sambridge is now the Director of CADI.

Work in geophysical fluid dynamics this year has seen major effort on ocean modelling both through atmosphere-ocean coupling and the dynamics of the global thermohaline circulations. Experimental runs in the GFD laboratory have been linked to major computational simulations. Other classes of laboratory investigations include studies of lave flow dynamics and three-dimensional simulations of subduction.

The ongoing program of studies with portable seismic recorders across the continent provides a steadily improving data set for studying the structure beneath the Australian continent. These results have been critical in developing a synthesis of seismological information on the contrasts in the mantle associated with the transition from the Precambrian to the younger eastern portion of Australia. It appears that the transition involves two distinct steps in lithospheric thickness.

In the Centre for Advanced Data Inference considerable effort has been expended on a new style of modelling system for geodynamic computations based on a novel partitioning of 3-D space. A CADI inversion toolkit has also been developed to provide a simple interfaces to both software and hardware facilities I, including the TerraWulf cluster.

Research within the geodynamics group covers two principal areas: the study of the earth's response to glaciation and the associated sea level changes and the study of the earth's deformation at high frequencies. A major step forward has been the reconstruction of the Eurasian ice sheet for the past 150,000 years from an inversion of field data of palaeo sea levels and shoreline locations, the results of which lead to the conclusion that the anomalously warm high-latitude climate conditions of the Last Interglacial can be largely attributed to the extent of the preceding glaciation. Considerable improvements were also made in the accuracy of height determination using GPS through new models for the atmospheric mapping functions, atmospheric pressure loading and non-gravitational orbit perturbations and through improved global station network design.

Geophysical Fluid dynamics
Geodynamics
Seismology and Geomagnetism
CADI