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From the continuum to the tectonic: the magma/mantle dynamics of planet earth


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6th June 2016 to 10th June 2016
Richard Katz

Organisers: Richard Katz (University of Oxford)

Confirmed speakers: 

  • Todd Arbogast
  • Samuel Butler
  • Yann Cappdeville
  • Juliane Dannberg
  • Taras Gerya
  • Timo Heister
  • Garrett Ito
  • Shun-ichiro Karato
  • Tobias Keller
  • Mike Kendall
  • Chloe Michaut
  • Sander Rhebergen
  • Tim Schulze
  • Ralph Showalter
  • Jenny Suckale
  • Andrew Turner
  • Robert van der Hilst
  • Doug Wiens
  • Son-Young Yi

Workshop Theme

Plate-tectonic boundaries are the predominant (but not the only!) geological context for mantle melting. Global-scale tectonic forces acting on plates give rise to mantle flows. At divergent and convergent plate boundaries, these flows carry with them the energy required for partial melting, leading to extensive volcanism. The nature of the boundary imposes geometric and material aspects of the problem: in subduction zones, for example, melting takes place in a wedge of mantle rock that lies above the foundering tectonic plate and below the surface tectonic plate. This wedge is permeated with water, CO2, and other chemicals that are released from the foundering plate and that chemically react to trigger melting. Furthermore, the tectonic context shapes the observations that can be made, and which models should aim to reproduce: mid-ocean ridges, for example, are found beneath several kilometres of ocean, creating some challenges (and some advantages) for observationalists.

Models of magma/mantle dynamics that seek to match observations must respect the geometric and material influences of the tectonic context. For understanding the Earth, modelling the geological context may be as important as capturing the fundamental conservation principles and the material properties of a two-phase continuum. However, putting magma/mantle dynamics into the plate-tectonic context creates challenges including

  • Broad range of length scales from the plate (~100 km) to the compaction scale (~1 km).
  • Broad range of time scales from plate motion (~1 Ma) to melt transport (~10 ka).
  • Thermo-chemical complexity and spatial heterogeneity (at a range of intermediate length-scales).
  • Adjacent regions of unmolten, partially molten, and (almost) fully molten rock.

These features impose the multi-scale nature of the phenomena and present significant challenges for numerical modelling. They are, however, crucial aspects of the system that should not be neglected in an attempt to explain observations.

One important class of observation that could constrain such models comes from measurements of seismic waves. When seismic waves have passed through the partially molten region and arrived at the surface, they carry some information about the properties of the medium. However, interpretation of such measurements in terms of those properties is not straightforward. Their analysis requires models of poro-(an)elasticity based-on grain scale physics, represented in terms of continuum theory, and informed by the meso-scale patterns that emerge from magma/mantle dynamics. There are many challenges in the development and use of such theory.

The aim of this workshop is therefore to bring together mathematicians and scientists working on multi-scale problems in numerical analysis, software, and modelling. In particular, the workshop will focus on measuring (seismically) and modelling magma transport through a porous medium, albeit one that is deforming viscously. And it will focus on the challenges that arise in simulations that capture the geological context: plate-imposed domain/flow geometry, melting and freezing of thermo-chemically heterogeneous material, and the multi-scale features that emerge as a consequence. Finally, the workshop will consider cutting-edge topics in modelling more exotic systems: solidification of a magma ocean that was present very early in Earth history and modern production (and detection) of melt at much greater depths in the mantle.

The workshop will take place at the Isaac Newton Institute, Cambridge, UK.

Deadline for applications: 04 March 2016

Apply now

Please note members of Cambridge University are welcome to turn up and sign in as a non-registered attendee on the day(s) during the workshop and attend the lecture(s). Please note that we cannot provide you with any support including name badge, meals or accommodation.

In addition to visiting the INI, there are multiple ways in which you can participate remotely.



Registration Only
  • Registration Package: £239
  • Student Registration Package: £189

The Registration Package includes admission to all seminars, lunches and refreshments on the days that lectures take place (Monday - Friday), wine reception and formal dinner, but does not include other meals or accommodation.

Formal Dinner Only
  • Formal Dinner: £50

Participants on the Registration Package, including organisers and speakers, are automatically included in this event. For all remaining participants who would like to attend, such as Visiting Fellows, programme participants or their guests, the above charge will apply.


Unfortunately we are unable to offer any accommodation and therefore ask that all successful applicants find their own. Please see the Hotels Combined website for a list of local hotels and guesthouses.



Lunch will be served at Wolfson Court in the Cafeteria from 12:30 to 13:30 on days that lectures take place.

  • Registration Package participants should present their badge as payment for their meal
  • Those issued with a blue Institute door entrance card can add money onto the card via the Porters' Lodge at Wolfson Court
  • Other participants must purchase their meal using their dining card via the Porters' Lodge (forms can be found on the registration desk or at the Porters' Lodge)

Evening Meal

Participants are free to make their own arrangements for dinner.

Formal Dinner

The Formal Dinner will take place on Wednesday 8th June at Trinity College, Old Kitchen. Participants on the Registration Package, including organisers and speakers, are automatically included in this event.

University of Cambridge Research Councils UK
    Clay Mathematics Institute London Mathematical Society NM Rothschild and Sons