Geodynamics and Basin Modelling

Postgraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

The course gives an introduction to quantitative geodynamics. The overall goal of this course is to provide the students with a good understanding of geodynamics and surface processes. A first sub-goal of this course is to provide the students with an intermediate level of understanding of geodynamic processes of the solid earth plus programming skills in computational methods. A second sub-goal of this course is for the students to learn how to do a literature study on a topic in geodynamics and/or surface processes.

In the first part, a brief overview of plate tectonic processes is given. The equation for thermal energy balance for the lithosphere is developed, and it is shown how the equation may be applied on various geological models and processes. Vertical movements expressed as uplift or exhumation and the concept of isostasy and flexural strength are then examined. The mechanics of the crust and lithosphere deformation is covered including a discussion of plate driving forces, the rheology of the lithosphere, elastic, brittle and viscous deformation processes. The response of rocks to applied forces is discussed and modelled. Dynamic processes including lithosphere extension, basin formation, and continental collision are discussed. Lastly the course gives an introduction to quantitative geomorphology, erosion models for orogenic scale landscape evolution including both short and long range transport mechanisms. The course uses Matlab to calculate and visualise the evolution of temperature, strength, basin subsidence, and surface erosion for simple cases.

Learning Outcomes

n completion of the course the student should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:

The student can

  • solve the heat equation for simple geologic problems
  • create Matlab programs to calculate temperature and heat flow for various geological scenarios and to calculate dependent strength within the lithosphere
  • explain Eulerian and Lagrangian reference frames
  • explain the concepts of uplift, subsidence, burial, exhumation, denudation
  • explain local and regional isostasy, and solve simple isostatic problems related to erosion and sedimentation
  • describe the basis for the equation showing depth of the oceans as function of age
  • describe the McKenzie rift model, and explain the concepts crust and mantle stretching factors, backstripping, tectonic, thermal, and isostatic subsidence
  • explain fundamentals of stress and strain
  • explain what controls the rheology of the oceanic and continental lithosphere
  • explain erosion models at an orogenic scale, and short and long term transport mechanisms
  • know how to conduct a literature study on a topic on computational geophysics and/or a small research project
  • use tools from the library as well as online tools for this project in computational geophysics

The student can

  • write computer programs in Matlab to illustrate and solve scientific problems in geodynamics and surface processes
  • write a short scientific paper on a topic of relevance in computational geodynamics and/or surface processes
  • give a presentation on this topic in computational geodynamics and/or surface processes to peers and experts

General competence
The student can

  • write computer programs of relevance in geodynamics and surface processes
  • do an independent literature study and/or research project in the area of computational geodynamics and surface processes
  • participate in a discussion on a research topic in computational geodynamics and surface processes

Semester of Instruction

Required Previous Knowledge
Basic principles of geophysical methods and physics of the solid earth; GEOV111, GEOV112
Access to the Course
Access to the course requires admission to a program of study at The Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences.
Teaching and learning methods

Total teaching of 12 weeks

First 10 weeks: Teaching using active learning techniques: 3 hours/week,

Last 2 weeks: research or literature project

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance
Mandatory active participation in all classes; all exercises have to be handed in and all exercises have to be passed.
Forms of Assessment

The course uses the following assessment:

Portfolio assessment:

  • Assessment of a written report for each of the compulsory exercises after each lecture
  • Oral presentation of one topic from the course material
  • Individual written assignment to be delivered by the end of the course
  • Oral discussion on written assignment and other course content

It is not possible to appeal the grade of this portfolio assessment. This is because a large part of the assessment in this course takes place orally in the classroom and would not be possible to reevaluate

Grading Scale
The grading scale used is A to F. Grade A is the highest passing grade in the grading scale, grade F is a fail.
Assessment Semester
Assessment will only be offered the actual semesters the course is taught (Autumn).
Reading List
The reading list will be available within July 1st for the autumn semester and December 1st for the spring semester.
Course Evaluation
The course will be evaluated by the students in accordance with the quality assurance system at UiB and the department.
Programme Committee
The Programme Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study programme and courses.
Course Coordinator
The course coordinator and administrative contact person can be found on Mitt UiB, or you may contact
Course Administrator
The Faculty for Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Department of Earth Science has the administrative responsibility for the course and program