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PX266 Geophysics

Lecturer: Nicholas Hine

Weighting: 7.5 CATS

This introductory module describes the behaviour of the solid Earth using physical principles. The topics covered to some extent include: the age of the Earth, plate tectonics, seismology, gravity and the shape of the Earth, oceanic and continental heat, the Earth's core and magnetic field.


To present an understanding of the Earth in terms of simple physical principles


The module will develop your understanding of Earth based on the physical principles of radioactivity, gravity, waves, heat and magnetism. You should obtain an overview of the structure of the Earth, of the large-scale processes affecting the Earth, and of the experimental and observational techniques used to probe them.


  1. Introductionn. Basic characteristics of Earth: size, shape, mass, structure, age. Earth geometry, spherical co-ordinates
  2. Geochronology. Geological time, radiometric dating
  3. Gravity. Consequences of spherical geometry, geoid, gravity measurements and anomalies, isostasy and mountain heights
  4. Seismology. Types of seismic waves, elasticity and elastic waves, earthquake location and magnitudes, seismology and Earth's interior
  5. Plate tectonics. Divergent, convergent and conservative plate boundaries, plate movement on flat earth, rotation poles and present day plate motions, past plate movements, role of Earth's magnetic field
  6. Heat. Overview of heat budget and Earth, heat flow and depth of ocean, convection in the mantle, thermal structure of the core, earth's magnetic field.

Commitment: about 18 Lectures

Assessment: 1 hour examination.

This module has a home page.

Recommended Texts: William Lowrie, Fundamentals of Geophysics, CUP; C.M.R Fowler, The Solid Earth - An Introduction to Global Geophysics, CUP

Leads from: 1st year physics modules