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Using dynamic models to understand continental deformation

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The Earth’s oceans are underlain by large, rigid, tectonic plates, which only deform along narrow zones at their boundaries. In contrast, many areas of the continents undergo pervasive deformation over regions thousands of kilometres wide. The characteristics of earthquakes, and estimates of surface motion made using highly-accurate GPS receivers, tell us about the active deformation in these wide deformation belts. However, a quantitative physical understanding of the deformation has remained elusive. I will describe a series of dynamic models that have shed new light on the factors that control the characteristics of continental deformation, and specifically focus on what controls the sizes, shapes, and evolution through time of large mountain ranges such as the Tibetan Plateau.

This talk is part of the BPI Seminar Series series.

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