Next offered: Spring 2008.


Tuesday & Thursday, 11:30 a.m. - 12:45 p.m.

Prof. Dennis E. Hayes
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, 303B Oceanography
(845) 365-8470; university ext. 95-8470
Office hours: Arranged by apppointment (Tuesday and Thursdays after class usually is best.)

Dr. Hayes’s Office Hours:  Arranged by appointment (Tuesday and Thursday after class usually is best)

The purpose of Geology 4941, "Principles of Geophysics," is to introduce graduate students and advanced undergraduates to the broad spectrum of knowledge that can be obtained by the application of basic principles of physics and mathematics to the study of the earth. Important aspects of the earth's evolution, structure, and dynamic processes will be discussed.

The course assumes a knowledge of basic physics and math (through calculus). Lectures include the derivation/discussion of some important geophysical relationships with comments on the implicit/explicit assumptions and considerations of the resultant uncertainties.

Although the course deals with quantitative subject matter, an attempt is made to illustrate the important principles both quantitatively and qualitatively. This is a suitable course for students who may not intend to major in geophysics but want/need a broad overview of basic concepts; it is also a suitable as a fundamental introductory course for prospective geophysics majors.

The lectures are roughly divided into the following disciplinary topics with about 4-5 lectures devoted to each main topic:

  1. Gravity
    1. Elementary Potential Theory
    2. Size, Shape, and Gravity Field of the Earth
    3. Isostasy, concepts and interpretation
    4. Gravity anomalies, their measurement and meaning
    5. Satellite Derived Gravity (How, What, Why)
    6. Tides, Tidal Friction, and their consequences
  2. Magnetics
    1. The Earth's Field - description and elementary potential theory
    2. Origin of the earth's field and temporal variations
    3. Basic rock magnetism/paleomagnetism
    4. Field measurement techniques/limitations
    5. The importance of polarity reversals and consequent marine magnetic lineations
  3. Seismology (Exploration)
    1. Propagation of seismic waves
    2. Classical reflection and refraction experimental principles
    3. Modern approaches -- including wide-aperture methods
    4. Interpretation of travel-time data to deduce crustal structure
  4. Seismology (Earthquake)
    1. Inferred structure and properties of the Earth's interior
    2. Seismicity (distribution, magnitude, frequency, prediction, hazards)
    3. Earthquake focal mechanisms and plate tectonic relationships
  5. Thermal History/Plate Tectonics
    1. Global surface heat flow (conduction) - implications/complications
    2. The earth's heat budget
    3. The topography of the ocean floor as a cooling slab - regional differences
    4. Asthenospheric convection
  6. Selected Special Topics (subject to change)
    1. Modern Navigation (GPS)
    2. Satellite derived seafloor topography
    3. Archeological Geophysics
    4. Energy considerations (various processes such as heat flow, earthquakes, plate motions, volcanoes, solar flux, tectonic uplift)

There will be ~4 take-home exercises related to the main lecture topics. Each exercise will require about 4 hours of your time.

There will be a mid-term exam and a final exam.

The Teaching Assistant for this class is

Danielle Stroup, L-DEO 201B Seismology
Phone: (845)365-8462


Unfortunately, there is no single, up-to-date text that deals adequately with the spectrum of topics to be covered in the class. Both the Fowler and the Lowrie books should be in the bookstore; the new Musset and Khan book may also be useful to you, both for this class and for later reference (see Bibliography, below). You will also find the Dobrin and Savit book and the Stacey and the Garland book useful as additional references on selected topics; unfortunately they are now out of print but they are on Reserve. Selected readings from other sources may be assigned.

Recommended Texts

# Fowler, The Solid Earth, 2nd Edition, Cambridge, 2005 (Recommended Primary Text - Good Reference to have on your shelf).

# Lowrie, Fundamentals of Geophysics, Cambridge, 1997 (Alt. Primary Text; This is fairly new and particularly relevant).

# Jones, Marine Geophysics, 1999, Wiley (Fairly new – Good from the marine perspective)

*# Dobrin and Savit, Introduction to Geophysical Prospecting, 4th Edition, McGraw-Hill, 1988 (Mostly Exploration Geophysics) - Good classic reference

# Brown & Musset, The Inaccessible Earth, Routledge, 1981 (slightly more elementary approach)

# Musset and Khan, Looking into the Earth, Cambridge, 2000 (relatively new – broad coverage)

Secondary Texts

Sleep and Fujita, Principles of Geophysics, Balckwell, 1997 (Slightly more advanced approach)

Bott, The Interior of the Earth, 2nd Edition, Elsevier, 1982

* Stacey, Physics of the Earth, 2nd Edition, Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1997

* Garland, Introduction to Geophysics, 2nd Edition, Saunders, 1979

Selected Bibliography (Many now considered classics in Geophysics)

Bullen and Bolt, Inroduction to the Theory of Seismology, Cambridge, 1985

Debremaecker, J.-C., Geophysics: The Earth’s Interior, Wiley & Sons, 1985

Jacobs, Russell, and Wilson, Physics and Geology, McGraw-Hill, 1974

LePichon, Francheteau, Bonin, Plate Tectonics, Elsevier, 1976

Parasnis, Principles of Applied Geophysics, 5th Edition, Kluwer, 1996

Sheriff, Encyclopedia Dictionary of Exploration Geophysics, Soc. Expl. Geophysicists, 1984

Tsuboi, Gravity, Routledge, 1983

Turcotte and Schubert, Geodynamics 2nd Edition, Cambridge, 2002

Udías, Principles of Seismology,Cambridge, 1999

Verhoogen, Energetics of the Earth, National Academy of Science, 1980

# On reserve both downtown and here at L-DEO
* Now out of print. Borrow copy or use Reserve copy.

Last updated: January 28, 2008