Tectonics and Geophysics
We investigate the physical processes of the solid Earth.
The Tectonics and Geophysics Research Group researches the breadth of tectonics and magmatism from rapid events such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, to slower processes such as solid-state creep and magma flow, and longer time scale processes that shape Earth's crust by deep crustal and mantle deformation.
We use field research, laboratory analysis and numerical modelling to understand dynamic processes occurring in Earth's interior from near-surface to deepest mantle. This work feeds into research priorities in geohazards, deformation of Earth materials and computational Earth sciences.
We aim to understand the causes and consequences of the dynamic processes changing the solid Earth by using our expertise in structural geology, petrology, geophysics, tectonics and geodynamics.
Tom Blenkinsop, David Buchs, Ake Fagereng, Huw Davies and Chris MacLeod lead this area, investigating the physical processes of the solid Earth using field observations, laboratory analyses, geophysical observations and numerical modelling.
Our research ranges from crustal fault behaviour and fluid flow to the deformation of the mantle, from microscopic to global scales.
Our three focus areas are:
- volcanic, sedimentary and tectonic processes at convergent and divergent margins
- fault mechanics and microstructures
- early Earth tectonics.
We examine how faults accommodate slip, seismically and aseismically, and how the range in geophysically observed fault behaviours may be recorded in exhumed rocks, using examples from contractional, extension and strike-slip tectonic regimes.
Magmatism and tectonics
Our research focuses on the formation and evolution of the lithosphere in a variety of oceanic and continental settings. These are split into four areas:
- mid-ocean ridges (Macleod, Lissenberg and Millet)
- subduction zones (Buchs, Fagereng, Kerr, Lissenberg, MacLeod, and Millet)
- intraplate regions (Kerr, Buchs, and Millet)
- ocean islands (Ramalho and Millet).
We adopt a multidisciplinary approach, mostly based on fieldwork on land and at sea (including ocean drilling), using a combination of geochemical/petrological modelling, structural geology and geophysics.
Processes of particular interest to us include:
- magma generation in the sub-oceanic mantle
- crustal accretion at mid-ocean ridges
- deformation of the oceanic lithosphere
- formation of seamounts and oceanic islands
- formation of oceanic plateaus and continental flood basalts and their environmental impacts
- hydrothermal processes
- subduction initiation and the formation of ophiolites.
Led by Huw Davies, we are interested in understanding how mantle dynamics drive plate tectonics and control planetary evolution using global and regional numerical simulations constrained by observations. Processes of interest include subduction, upwelling plumes and mantle convection. Much of our numerical simulations are undertaken on large clusters including, the University cluster run by Advanced Research Computing at Cardiff (ARCCA), and the UK Supercomputer, Archer2.
- Blenkinsop, T. G. (Lead PI of Cardiff element) Ballistic damage of stone heritage structures in conflict areas, to Dr. Lisa Mol, 2017-2022, £199,745, £81,304 to Cardiff.
- Davies, H. (Lead PI of Cardiff element) Volatile legacy of the Early Earth. NERC Grant – NE/M000400/1. September 2014-March 2021, £123,512
- Davies, H. (Lead PI of Cardiff element) Mantle volatiles : processes, reservoirs and fluxes. NERC Grant - NE/M000397/1. September 2014-March 2021, £221,000
- Davies JH (Lead PI) Mantle Circulation Constrained (MC2): A multidisciplinary 4D Earth framework for understanding mantle upwellings, co-I - MB Andersen, O Shorttle, GG Roberts, A Biggin, J Wookey, T Elliott, A Nowacki, A Walker, C Davies, A Ferreira, P Koelemeijer, NERC Large Grant - NE/T012633/1, November 2020-October-2024, £3,684,000 FEC, £2,963,000 from funder; £804,471 to Cardiff.
- Davies, JH, The Evolution of Terrestrial Planets: Insights from Models of Planetary Evolution with Coupled Internal, Atmospheric/Surface Development, Horizon 2020, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship to Dr. Matt Weller, 2021-2023, €212,933.76
- Fagereng, A. MICA: Mechanics of slow earthquake phenomena: an Integrated perspective from the Composition, geometry, And rheology of plate boundary faults. ERC Starting Grant 715836. Feb 2017 – Feb 2023, €1,499,244
- Fagereng, A. (Lead of Cardiff element) PREPARE: Enhancing PREParedness for East African Countries through Seismic Resilience Engineering. EPSRC Global Challenges Research Fund EP/P028233/1, May 2017 – Mar 2022. £1,381,845 from funder, £214,818 to Cardiff.
- Lissenberg, C.J., Millet, M.-A. HiDe: A highly heterogeneous depleted mantle? NERC Standard Grant NE/T000317/1. Jan 2020-Jan 2023, £514,889.
- Lissenberg, C.J. Decoding the crystal record of volcanic eruptions, Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Research Fellowship to Dr. Matthew Gleeson, 2020-2023, £193,578.
- MacLeod, C.J. ULTRA - Ultramafic-hosted mineral Resource Assessment NERC Highlight Topic Grant NE/S004300/1. 2020-2024, £412,842.
- Millet M-A NIIICE: Novel Isotope Insights Into Continent Evolution NERC Standard Grant NE/R001332/1 – £506,772 April 2018 – June 2022
- Knight, B. S. , Davies, J. H. and Capitanio, F. A. 2021. Timescales of successful and failed subduction: insights from numerical modelling. Geophysical Journal International 225 (1), pp.261-276. (10.1093/gji/ggaa410)
- Fagereng, Å. and Beall, A. 2021. Is complex fault zone behaviour a reflection of rheological heterogeneity?. Philosophical Transactions A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 379 (2193) 20190421. (10.1098/rsta.2019.0421)
- Sanfilippo, A. et al., 2020. Early-stage melt-rock reaction in a cooling crystal mush beneath a slow-spreading mid-ocean ridge (IODP Hole U1473A, Atlantis Bank, Southwest Indian Ridge). Frontiers in Earth Science 8 579138. (10.3389/feart.2020.579138)
- Ciborowski, T. J. R. et al., 2020. Petrogenesis of Siletzia: the world’s youngest oceanic plateau. Chemie der Erde / Geochemistry 1 100004. (10.1016/j.ringeo.2020.100004)
- Hoare, L. et al. 2020. Melt chemistry and redox conditions control titanium isotope fractionation during magmatic differentiation. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 282 , pp.38-54. (10.1016/j.gca.2020.05.015)
- Zhang, H. , Blenkinsop, T. and Yu, Z. 2020. Timing of Triassic tectonic division and postcollisional extension in the eastern part of the Jiaodong Peninsula. Gondwana Research 83 , pp.141-156. (10.1016/j.gr.2020.01.018)
- Moore, A. et al., 2020. Evidence for olivine deformation in kimberlites and other mantle-derived magmas during crustal emplacement. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology 175 (2) 15. (10.1007/s00410-020-1653-8)
- Buchs, D. M. and Oemering, S. A. 2020. Long-term non-erosive nature of the south Costa Rican margin supported by arc-derived sediments accreted in the Osa Mélange. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 531 115968. (10.1016/j.epsl.2019.115968)
- Dick, H. J. B. et al., 2019. Dynamic accretion beneath a slow-spreading ridge segment: IODP Hole 1473A and the Atlantis Bank Oceanic Core complex. Journal of Geophysical Research. Solid Earth 124 (12), pp.12631-12659. (10.1029/2018JB016858)
- Bennett, E. N. et al. 2019. Deep roots for mid-ocean-ridge volcanoes revealed by plagioclase-hosted melt inclusions. Nature 572 (7768), pp.235-239. (10.1038/s41586-019-1448-0)
- Fagereng, A. et al. 2019. Mixed deformation styles on a shallow subduction thrust, Hikurangi margin, New Zealand. Geology 47 (9), pp.872-876. (10.1130/G46367.1)
- Price, M. , Davies, J. and Panton, J. 2019. Controls on the deep water cycle within three-dimensional mantle convection models. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 20 (5)(10.1029/2018GC008158)
- Buchs, D. M. et al. 2019. Volcanic contribution to emergence of Central Panama in the Early Miocene. Scientific Reports 9 1417. (10.1038/s41598-018-37790-2)
- Lissenberg, C. J. , MacLeod, C. J. and Bennett, E. N. 2019. Consequences of a crystal mush-dominated magma plumbing system: a mid-ocean ridge perspective. Philosophical Transactions A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 377 (2139)(10.1098/rsta.2018.0014)
- Millet, M. et al. 2016. Titanium stable isotope investigation of magmatic processes on the Earth and Moon. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 449 , pp.197-205. (10.1016/j.epsl.2016.05.039)
- Hastie, A. R. et al., 2010. Geochemistry of Compositionally Distinct Late Cretaceous Back-Arc Basin Lavas: Implications for the Tectonomagmatic Evolution of the Caribbean Plate. Journal of Geology 118 (6), pp.655-676. (10.1086/656353)
Professor in Earth Science
- +44 (0)29 2087 0232
Director of Research
- Welsh speaking
- daviesjh2 @ cardiff.ac.uk
- +44 (0)29 2087 5182
Reader in Petrology & Director of Student Recruitment and Admissions
- +44 (0)29 2087 4578
- email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
- +44(0)7778942870; +2348161358265
Research Associate in Petrology and Isotope Geochemistry
- +44 (0)29 2087 4336
Research Associate in Igneous Petrology
- +44 (0)29 2087 4336
Director, Sustainable Places Research Institute and Reader
- +44 (0)29 2087 4329
Lecturer in Environmental and Physical Geography
- +44 (0)29 2087 4579
High performance computing
We have access to high-performance computing centres and dedicated support within Cardiff University. The facilities allow us to undertake sophisticated simulations of the dynamics, including simulations in 3D spherical geometry. These models include mantle circulation models (MCM) which incorporate plate motion history. The models can be directly compared, including by 3D visualisation, to actual observations for improved understanding.
The facilities help us to better understand Earth's evolution including influences on surface topography, magmatism and seismic structure.
We have extensive facilities for rock and thin section preparation, including large and small jaw crushers for reducing large rock samples to pea-sized grains.
Large quantities can be ground to a fine powder in tema mills, or the planetary ball mills can be used for large quantities of rock samples in small amounts.
The facilities include:
- rock sawing laboratory
- rock crushing and grinding laboratory
- fusion laboratory
- sectioning laboratory
- polishing laboratory.
Our microscope can be used to image objects such as minerals and microfossils at a magnification far exceeding the capabilities of an optical microscope.
The electron microbeam facility in the Earth and Environmental Sciences houses two scanning electron microscopes and an X-ray diffractometer. The scanning electron microscope (SEM) is used for characterization, imaging and analysis of sub-micron features in materials. The X-ray diffractometer is used for identifying and characterizing minerals, either alone or in complex mixtures.
Our facilities include a state-of-the-art Zeiss Sigma HD Field Emission Gun Analytical SEM which is used for high-resolution imaging and X-ray element mapping as well as quantitative analysis of major, minor and trace elements. In addition our FEI XL30 Field Emission Gun Environmental SEM is used for high-resolution imaging and semi-quantitative X-ray element analysis of samples. Carbon- and gold-coating facilities are available for non-conducting samples. The Philips PW1710 Automated Powder Diffractometer is used for identifying and characterizing minerals, either alone or in complex mixtures.
The department has 3 Güralp Radian Posthole seismometers (fully broadband with frequency responses between 200Hz to 120s). These state-of-the-art instruments can be deployed at any angle with an internal magnetometer and accelerometer providing accurate, geographically-aligned waveforms. They can record seismic signals from strong local earthquakes where typical seismometer scales would clip (up to ~M7.5) and small teleseismic events due to the improved noise performance of posthole deployment.
The instruments are ideal for ongoing research within the department into continental lithosphere and deeper Earth structure, earthquake monitoring and coastal processes.