Past Mathematical Geoscience Seminar

31 May 2013
14:30
Prof. Bruce Malamud
Abstract
Landslides are generally associated with a trigger, such as an earthquake, a rapid snowmelt or a large storm. The trigger event can generate a single landslide or many thousands. This paper examines: (i) The frequency-area statistics of several triggered landslide event inventories, which are characterized by a three-parameter inverse-gamma probability distribution (exponential for small landslide areas, power-law for medium and large areas). (ii) The use of proxies (newspapers) for compiling long-time series of landslide activity in a given region, done in the context of the Emilia-Romagna region, northern Italy. (iii) A stochastic model developed to evaluate the probability of landslides intersecting a simple road network during a landslide triggering event.
  • Mathematical Geoscience Seminar
17 May 2013
14:30
Dr. Robert Arthern
Abstract
Nowadays there are a large number of satellite and airborne observations of the large ice sheet that covers Antarctica. These include maps of the surface elevation, ice thickness, surface velocity, the rate of snow accumulation, and the rate of change of surface elevation. Uncertainty in the possible rate of future sea level rise motivates using all of these observations and models of ice-sheet flow to project how the ice sheet will behave in future, but this is still a challenge. To make useful predictions, especially in the presence of potential dynamic instabilities, models will need accurate initial conditions, including flow velocity throughout the ice thickness. The ice sheet can be several kilometres thick, but most of the observations identify quantities at the upper surface of the ice sheet, not within its bulk. There is thus a question of how the subsurface flow can be inferred from surface observations. The key parameters that must be identified are the viscosity in the interior of the ice and the basal drag coefficient that relates the speed of sliding at the base of the ice sheet to the basal shear stress. Neither is characterised well by field or laboratory studies, but for incompressible flow governed by the Stokes equations they can be investigated by inverse methods analogous to those used in electric impedance tomography (which is governed by the Laplace equation). Similar methods can also be applied to recently developed 'hybrid' approximations to Stokes flow that are designed to model shallow ice sheets, fast-sliding ice streams, and floating ice shelves more efficiently. This talk will give a summary of progress towards model based projections of the size and shape of the Antarctic ice sheet that make use of the available satellite data. Some of the outstanding problems that will need to be tackled to improve the accuracy of these projections will also be discussed.
  • Mathematical Geoscience Seminar
3 May 2013
14:30
Duncan Hewitt
Abstract
Convection in a porous medium plays an important role in many geophysical and industrial processes, and is of particular current interest due to its implications for the long-term security of geologically sequestered CO_2. I will discuss two different convective systems in porous media, with the aid of 2D direct numerical simulations: first, a Rayleigh-Benard cell at high Rayleigh number, which gives an accurate characterization both of the convective flux and of the remarkable dynamical structure of the flow; and second, the evolution and eventual `shut-down' of convection in a sealed porous domain with a source of buoyancy along only one boundary. The latter case is also studied using simple box models and laboratory experiments, and can be extended to consider convection across an interface that can move and deform, rather than across a rigid boundary. The relevance of these results in the context of CO_2 sequestration will be discussed.
  • Mathematical Geoscience Seminar
8 March 2013
14:30
Dr Kody Law
Abstract
Unstable dynamical systems can be stabilized, and hence the solution recovered from noisy data, provided two conditions hold. First, observe enough of the system: the unstable modes. Second, weight the observed data sufficiently over the model. In this talk I will illustrate this for the 3DVAR filter applied to three dissipative dynamical systems of increasing dimension: the Lorenz 1963 model, the Lorenz 1996 model, and the 2D Navier-Stokes equation.
  • Mathematical Geoscience Seminar
22 February 2013
14:30
Abstract
Thermomechanical processes observed in deformable solids under intensive dynamic or quasi-static loadings consist of coupled mechanical, thermal and fracturing stages. The fracturing processes involve formation, motion and interaction of defects in crystals, phase transitions, breaking of bonds between atoms, accumulation of micro-structural damages (pores, cracks), etc. Irreversible deformations, zones of adiabatic shear micro-fractures are caused by these processes. Dynamic fracturing is a complicated multistage process, which includes appearance, evolution and confluence of micro-defects and formation of embryonic micro-cracks and pores that can grow and lead to the breaking-up of bodies with formation of free surfaces. This results in a need to use more advanced mathematical and numerical techniques. This talk presents modelling of irreversible deformation near the tip of a crack in a porous domain containing oil and gas during the hydraulic fracturing process. The governing equations for a porous domain containing oil and gas are based on constructing a mathematical model of thermo-visco-elasto-plastic media with micro-defects (micro-pores) filled with another phase (e.g., oil or/and gas). The micro-pores can change their size during the process of dynamical irreversible deformation. The existing pores can expand or collapse. The model was created by using fundamental thermodynamic principles and, therefore, it is a thermodynamically consistent model. All the processes (i.e., irreversible deformation, fracturing, micro-damaging, heat transfer) within a porous domain are strongly coupled. An explicit normalized-corrected meshless method is used to solve the resulting governing PDEs. The flexibility of the proposed technique allows efficient running using a great number of micro- and macro- fractures. The results are presented, discussed and future studies are outlined.
  • Mathematical Geoscience Seminar
8 February 2013
14:30
Dr Fenwick Cooper
Abstract
We are interested in finding the Probability Density Function (PDF) of high dimensional chaotic systems such as a global atmospheric circulation model. The key difficulty stems from the so called “curse of dimensionality”. Representing anything numerically in a high dimensional space seems to be just too computationally expensive. Methods applied to dodge this problem include representing the PDF analytically or applying a (typically linear) transformation to a low dimensional space. For chaotic systems these approaches often seem extremely ad-hoc with the main motivation being that we don't know what else to do. The Lorenz 95 system is one of the simplest systems we could come up with that is both chaotic and high dimensional. So it seems like a good candidate for initial investigation. We look at two attempts to approximate the PDF of this system to an arbitrary level of accuracy, firstly using a simple Monte-Carlo method and secondly using the Fokker-Planck equation. We also describe some of the (sometimes surprising) difficulties encountered along the way.
  • Mathematical Geoscience Seminar
25 January 2013
14:30
Dr Andrew Wells
Abstract
In many places, the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are fringed by tongues of ice floating on the ocean, called ice shelves. Recent observations and modelling suggest that melting and disintegration of the floating ice shelves can impact ice sheet flow, and hence have consequences for sea level rise. Of particular interest are observations of channels and undulations in the ice shelf base, for which the conditions for genesis remain unclear. To build insight into the potential for melting-driven instability of the ice shelf base, this talk will consider a free boundary problem with melting at the ice-ocean interface coupled to a buoyant plume of meltwater confined below a stationary ice shelf. An asymptotic model of turbulent heat transfer in the meltwater plume reveals that melting rates depend on ice-shelf basal slope, with potentially shocking consequences for the evolving ice-shelf geometry
  • Mathematical Geoscience Seminar
30 November 2012
14:30
Abstract
Mesocosm experiments provide a major test bed for models of plankton, greenhouse gas export to the atmosphere, and changes to ocean acidity, nitrogen and oxygen levels. A simple model of a mesocosm plankton ecology is given in terms of a set of explicit natural population dynamics rules that exactly conserve a key nutrient. These rules include many traditional population dynamics models ranging from Lotka-Volterra systems to those with more competitors and more trophic levels coupled by nonlinear processes. The rules allow a definition of an ecospace and an analysis of its behaviour in terms of equilibrium points on the ecospace boundary. Ecological issues such as extinctions, plankton bloom succession, and system resilience can then be analytically studied. These issues are understood from an alternative view point to the usual search for interior equilibrium points and their classification, coupled with intensive computer simulations. Our approach explains why quadratic mortality usually stabilises large scale simulation, but needs to be considered carefully when developing the next generation of Earth System computer models. The ‘Paradox of the Plankton’ and ‘Invasion Theory’ both have alternative, yet straightforward explanations within these rules.
  • Mathematical Geoscience Seminar
16 November 2012
14:30
Dr Andrew J. Hogg
Abstract
Turbidity currents - submarine flows of sediment - are capable of transporting particulate material over large distance. However direct observations of them are extremely rare and much is inferred from the deposits they leave behind, even though the characteristics of their source are often not known. The submarine flows of volcanic ash from the Soufriere Hills Volcano, Monsterrat provide a unique opportunity to study a particle-driven flow and the deposit it forms, because the details of the source are relatively well constrained and through ocean drilling, the deposit is well sampled. We have formed simple mathematical models of this motion that capture ash transport and deposit. Our description brings out two dynamical features that strongly influence the motion and which have previously often been neglected, namely mixing between the particulate flow and the oceanic water and the distribution of sizes suspended by the flow. We show how, in even simple situations, these processes alter our views of how these currents propagate.
  • Mathematical Geoscience Seminar
2 November 2012
14:30
Jonny Kingslake
Abstract
Ice-dammed lakes form next to, on the surface of, and beneath glaciers and ice sheets. Some lakes are known to drain catastrophically, creating hazards, wasting water resources and modulating the flow of the adjacent ice. My work aims to increase our understanding of such drainage. Here I will focus on lakes that form next to glaciers and drain subglacially (between ice and bedrock) through a channel. I will describe how such a system can be modelled and present results from model simulations of a lake that fills due to an input of meltwater and drains through a channel that receives a supply of meltwater along its length. Simulations yield repeating cycles of lake filling and drainage and reveal how increasing meltwater input to the system affects these cycles: enlarging or attenuating them depending on how the meltwater is apportioned between the lake and the channel. When inputs are varied with time, simulating seasonal meteorological cycles, the model simulates either regularly repeating cycles or irregular cycles that never repeat. Irregular cycles demonstrate sensitivity to initial conditions, a high density of periodic orbits and topological mixing. I will discuss how these results enhance our understanding of the mechanisms behind observed variability in these systems.
  • Mathematical Geoscience Seminar

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