Past 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
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

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