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When climate loads the Earth: rheology from geodesy

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Sam Wimpenny.

At timescales of seconds to minutes, encompassed by global seismological observations, Earth behaves as an almost perfectly elastic body displaying only slight attenuation of seismic waves as they propagate. In contrast, at the timescales of thousands to millions of years associated with major glacial episodes and planetary-scale deep Earth processes, Earth is dominated by the viscous deformation of its mantle which is overlain by a relatively thin lithosphere showing nearly elastic behavior only to depths of the order of several tens of kilometers. Between these end-member timescales, tidal deformation and postseismic relaxationstudies have revealed a transient rheological behavior that is neither purely elastic nor purely viscous. Today, emerging geodetic observing technologies and continuous improvements in data accuracy and coverage of measurements provide an unprecedented opportunity to study various transient processes and advance our understanding of Earth’s mechanical response across spatial and temporal scales.

In particular, accurate measurements of temporal changes in the Earth’s shape and rotation due to shifting hydrological, atmospherical and oceanic mass loads at its surface may bring new information on the Earth’s rheology at intermediate timescales. In this talk, I will discuss improvements in geodetic observations arising from innovative data analysis methods, as well as recent advances in probing Earth’s transient rheology using its response to surface mass redistribution over seasonal to decadal time scales. A time-dependent description of Earth’s rheology may, in turn, play a central role in better understanding processes deforming the solid Earth, and in monitoring temporal variations in terrestrial water storage.

This talk is part of the Bullard Laboratories Wednesday Seminars series.

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