Past Mathematical Geoscience Seminar

14 February 2014
14:15
Abstract
Hazardous geophysical mass flows, such as snow avalanches, debris-flows and pyroclastic flows, often spontaneously develop large particle rich levees that channelize the flow and enhance their run-out. Measurements of the surface velocity near an advancing flow front have been made at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) debris-flow flume, where 10m^3 of water saturated sand and gravel are allowed to flow down an 80m chute onto a run-out pad. In the run-out phase the flow front is approximately invariant in shape and advances at almost constant speed. By tracking the motion of surface tracers and using a simple kinematic model, it was possible to infer bulk motion as incoming material is sheared towards the front, over-run and shouldered to the side. At the heart of the levee formation process is a subtle segregation-mobility feedback effect. Simple models for particle segregation and the depth-averaged motion of granular avalanches are described and one of the first attempts is made to couple these two types of models together. This process proves to be non-trivial, yielding considerable complexity as well as pathologies that require additional physics to be included.
  • Mathematical Geoscience Seminar
31 January 2014
14:15
Mauro Werder
Abstract
Jakobshavn Isbrae and many other fast flowing outlet glaciers of present and past ice sheets lie in deep troughs which often have several overdeepened sections. To make their fast flow possible their bed needs to be slippery which in turn means high basal water pressures. I will present a model of subglacial water flow and its application to Jakobshavn. I find that, somewhat surprisingly, the reason for Jakobshavn's fast flow might be the pressure dependence of the melting point of ice. The model itself describes the unusual fluid dynamics occurring underneath the ice; it has an interesting mathematical structure that presents computational challenges.
  • Mathematical Geoscience Seminar
6 December 2013
14:15
Daniel Goldberg
Abstract
Stick-slip behavior is a distinguishing characteristic of the flow of Whillans Ice Stream. Distinct from stick-slip on northern hemisphere glaciers, which is generally attributed to supraglacial melt, the behavior is thought be be controlled by fast processes at the bed and by tidally-induced stress. Modelling approaches to studying this phenomenon typically consider ice to be an elastically-deforming solid (e.g. Winberry et al, 2008; Sergienko et al, 2009). However, there remains a question of whether irreversible, i.e. viscous, deformation is important to the stick-slip process; and furthermore whether the details of stick-slip oscillations are important to ice stream evolution on longer time scales (years to decades). To address this question I use two viscoelastic models of varying complexity. The first is a modification to the simple block-and-slider models traditionally used to examine earthquake processes on a very simplistic fashion. Results show that the role of viscosity in stick-slip depends on the dominant stress balance. These results are then considered in the context of a continuum description of a viscoelastic ice stream with a rate-weakening base capable of exhibiting stick-slip behavior. With the continuum model we examine the spatial and temporal aspects of stick-slip, their dependence on viscous effects, and how this behavior impacts the mean flow. Different models for the evolution of basal shear stress are examined in the experiments, with qualitatively similar results. A surprising outcome is that tidal effects, while greatly affecting the spectrum of the stick-slip cycle, may have relatively little effect on the mean flow.
  • Mathematical Geoscience Seminar
22 November 2013
14:15
Philip Stier
Abstract
Clouds play a key role in the climate system. Driven by radiation, clouds power the hydrological cycle and global atmospheric dynamics. In addition, clouds fundamentally affect the global radiation balance by reflecting solar radiation back to space and trapping longwave radiation. The response of clouds to global warming remains poorly understood and is strongly regime dependent. In addition, anthropogenic aerosols influence clouds, altering cloud microphysics, dynamics and radiative properties. In this presentation I will review progress and limitations of our current understanding of the role of clouds in climate change and discuss the state of the art of the representation of clouds and aerosol-cloud interactions in global climate models, from (slightly) better constrained stratiform clouds to new frontiers: the investigation of anthropogenic effects on convective clouds.
  • Mathematical Geoscience Seminar
25 October 2013
14:15
William Newman
Abstract
Many years ago, Mark Kac was consulted by biologist colleague Lamont Cole regarding field-based observations of animal populations that suggested the existence of 3-4 year cycles in going from peak to peak. Kac provided an elegant argument for how purely random sequences of numbers could yield a mean value of 3 years, thereby establishing the notion that pattern can seemingly emerge in random processes. (This does not, however, mean that there could be a largely deterministic cause of such population cycles.) By extending Kac's argument, we show how the distribution of cycle length can be analytically established using methods derived from random graph theory, etc. We will examine how such distributions emerge in other natural settings, including large earthquakes as well as colored Brownian noise and other random models and, for amusement, the Standard & Poor's 500 index for percent daily change from 1928 to the present. We then show how this random model could be relevant to a variety of spatially-dependent problems and the emergence of clusters, as well as to memory and the aphorism "bad news comes in threes." The derivation here is remarkably similar to the former and yields some intriguing closed-form results. Importantly, the centroids or "centers of mass" of these clusters also yields clusters and a hierarchy then emerges. Certain "universal" scalings appear to emerge and scaling factors reminiscent of Feigenbaum numbers. Finally, as one moves from one dimension to 2, 3, and 4 dimensions, the scaling behaviors undergo modest change leaving this scaling phenomena qualitatively intact. Finally, we will show how that an adaptation of the Langevin equation from statistical physics provides not simply a null-hypothesis for matching the observation of 3-4 year cycles, but a remarkably simple model description for the behavior of animal populations.
  • Mathematical Geoscience Seminar
14 June 2013
14:30
Dr. Anthony Anderson
Abstract
Colloidal suspensions do not freeze uniformly; rather, the frozen phase (e.g. ice) becomes segregated, trapping bulk regions of the colloid within, which leads to a fascinating variety of patterns that impact both nature and technology. Yet, despite the central importance of ice segregation in several applications, the physics are poorly understood in concentrated systems and continuum models are available only in restricted cases. I will discuss a particular set of steady-state ice segregation patterns that were obtained during a series of directional solidification experiments on concentrated suspensions. As a case study, I will focus of one of these patterns, which is very reminiscent of ice lenses observed in freezing soils and rocks; a form of ice segregation which underlies frost heave and frost weathering. I will compare these observations against an extended version of a 'rigid-ice' model used in previous frost heave studies. The comparison between theory and experiment is qualitatively correct, but fails to quantitatively predict the ice-lensing pattern. This leaves open questions about the validity of the assumptions in 'rigid-ice' models. Moreover, 'rigid-ice' models are inapplicable to the study of other ice segregation patterns. I conclude this talk with some possibilities for a more general model of freezing colloidal suspensions.
  • 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

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