Crustal Dynamics

Module code: GL3118

The continental crust is the archive of Earth’s history and is unique amongst the terrestrial planets. It forms the environment in which we live and hosts many of the resources on which we depend.

This module will take you to the cutting edge of our understanding of crustal dynamics. The chemistry of the crust is strikingly similar to the magmas produced at subduction zones, but recent evidence suggests that modern styles of plate tectonics only started 3 billion years ago – after the first crust had formed. How was the first continental crust generated? What changed on Earth around 3 billion years ago to allow modern styles of plate tectonics to operate and how did this impact crustal generation? To address these questions, you will build on your knowledge of magmatic processes to understand how modern and ancient crust was generated and how we should interpret the crustal record.

In the second part of this module, we will examine a range of geophysical techniques to look at why deformation in the continents is so markedly different to that in the oceans and why the theory of plate tectonics fails to explain the dynamics of crustal deformation.

We will finish by examining what the great mountain belts of the world, including the Himalayas, can tell us about the ways continents deform and the role they play in regulating the Earth’s hydrosphere. This new, wide-ranging and multi-disciplinary module will allow you to integrate a wide range of topics and skills to understand the big picture of Earth evolution.

Topics covered

  • Microscopy
  • Geochemistry
  • Software manipulation
  • How to interrogate large, open access, global databases of geological information
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