Earth Scientists Push Boundaries of 3D Modeling

Robert Moucha, assistant professor of geophysics, and Gregory Ruetenik, a Ph.D. student in Earth sciences, have collaborated with Gregory Hoke, associate professor of Earth sciences, on a unique numerical modeling study that simulates changing terrain over millions of years.

Their study shows that moderate changes in dynamic topography produce an erosional response in the form of increased sediment flux to continental margins (i.e., the rate of sediments supplied to margins by streams and rivers).

This kind of modeling contributes to our understanding of mantle convection,” said Moucha, referring to the process in which heat from inside the Earth rises to the surface.

“By drawing on elements of physics, chemistry and mathematics, we can infer how the Earth’s surface evolution is affected by mantle convection and the interaction with various crust and surface processes, including the climate.”

Erosional response usually persists long after dynamic topography, and is dependent on the interplay of uplift rate, rock and soil erosion and initial topography.

Dynamic topography is the resulting surface deformation, characterized by long, low-amplitude, wave-length undulations, driven by convection in the Earth’s mantle.