Peter Olson is an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at University of New Mexico and a research professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. His research specialties are dynamics of the Earth, particularly its mantle and core, and the dynamics of other terrestrial planets.

Research Interests

I am interested in the large-scale dynamical processes in the Earth's interior and in other planets. In Earth's interior, the two most important dynamics are the slow convective circulation in the mantle that results in plate tectonics, and the geodynamo, the process by which the geomagnetic field is maintained within the molten outer core. A distinctive property of mantle rocks is that their resistance to flow is extremely sensitive to temperature, pressure, and chemistry. In my laboratory, we use fluids with strongly temperature- and composition-dependent viscosity to construct scale models of mantle convection phenomena. I have investigated the fluid dynamics of the plume upwellings that form volcanic hotspots such as Hawaii, the subduction of oceanic lithosphere that is responsible for the largest earthquakes, and the dynamics of the thermo-chemical boundary layer at the mantle-core interface. I have also constructed laboratory dynamical models for the core, by subjecting liquid metals such as gallium to the effects of rotation, heating, crystallization, and applied magnetic fields. I combine measurements from these laboratory experiments with large-scale numerical simulations to explain geophysical observations.

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Primary Section

Section 16: Geophysics