The Earth is a complex and dynamic system and the inner workings of our planet has serious potential disaster for humans in the form of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. By using resources of digital infrastructure and supercomputers, a group of researchers from the University of Oslo, Norway, is studying the links between processes that occur deep within the earth and the surface, with the aim of understanding better functioning of our planet and decipher clues on how Earth evolved up to become the prominent planet it is today.
While the interior of the Earth can not be observed directly, it has gained a lot of information about its structure from seismic tomography studies globally. Based on mathematical similarities with the rays of a medical CT, seismic tomography provides key observational constraints on the current state of heterogeneity across the Earth. These studies revealed a radially stratified earth, separated into crust, mantle and inner cores.
Quantitatively, the mantle represents the most significant layer of the Earth and comprising nearly 84% of the total volume of the planet and 67% of its mass (left: inside the earth (Duffy, 2011) . For researchers the Norwegian Centre for the evolution and dynamics of the Earth (CEED) the fundamental objective is to understand the complex structure and dynamics of the mantle since the behavior of the latter has very important implications for various aspects of Earth science and space, for example mechanisms of earthquakes, volcanic systems, planetary evolution and climate change.
The nature of mantle convection can be described by mathematical models. This branch of Earth science using numerical modeling evolved greatly in the last decade. As a result, there are now computer models mantle with lots of details and can explore the dynamics of the depths of the earth through computer simulations in high resolution. A multidisciplinary group of researchers from CEED use the supercomputer Abel at the University of Oslo and the Stallo at the University of Trondheim using detailed numerical codes describing mantle convection and other dynamic processes of the Earth to create complex computer models inside our planet. These numerical models can be used to study the evolution of a planet and its role in the current observations of the surface. It is this evolution of the mantle that arouses particular interest to scientists CEED.
How exactly did the cloak came to have the structure you have today? Ever she had the same appearance or evolved over time by convection? Indeed, a fundamental mission of the research center is to develop a model to explain how the Earth mantle processes influence the tectonic plates. With this in mind, it is currently being used in the CEED a method to integrate data from multiple geodisciplinas in high resolution numerical models of mantle, combining the complementary techniques of seismology, geochemistry and paleomagnetism. This multidisciplinary approach is crucial because of the inability to access the depths of the Earth.
In the CEED, solid numerical skills, combined with dual expertise in the geological field and geophysicist, plus accessibility to systems high performance computing, such as Abel and Stallo, allow the creation of detailed dynamic models, high resolution, of our planet and other bodies. Through these models, the CEED seeks to better understand how the earth evolved to become the only planet in which we live today.
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To simulate convection, the whole Earth is represented as a 3D graph consisting of several million points. The mathematical equations that describe the physics of mantle convection are solved repeatedly in each discrete point, allowing researchers to control different variables, including temperature of the material in convection, speed and composition. To perform a simulation takes several days and weeks, according to the complexity of the model.
This is a fragment of a magazine article published by UNINETT Sigma2
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