Geodynamics and Plate Tectonic Processes

Postgraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

Computer programming is a core skill for geophysicists. The overall goal of this course is to provide the students with a good understanding of computational geodynamics. A first goal of this course is to provide the students with an good understanding and programming kills in computational geodynamics. A second goal of this course is for the students to learn how to implement and use finite element techniques to solve problems in lithosphere dynamics.

In this course the students will learn a number of tools from numerical mathematics, including interpolation, integration, and solving simple partial differential equations using finite element techniques and write computer programs (in Matlab) that apply these methods on topics in geodynamics. These topics include thermal diffusion, elasticity and computational fluid dynamics applied to lithosphere deformation. The student will write a short report including a description of the model, the code implementation and with figures visualising their results.

Learning Outcomes

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

The student

  • Understands various issues related to computer programming (including computer programming style and debugging)
  • Has a good basic understanding of fundamental concepts in numerical methods (such as finite element solution in 1D/2D of various differential equations and code verification)
  • Can discuss and apply these numerical methods to specific problems in computational geodynamics (as found, for example in tectonics, heat diffusion, and surface processes).
  • Can use tools from the library as well as online tools for this project in computational geodynamics.

The student

  • Can write computer programs in Matlab to illustrate and solve scientific problems in geodynamics.
  • Can write a short scientific report on a topic of relevance in computational geodynamics.
  • Can give a presentation on this topic in computational geodynamics to peers and experts.

General competence
The student

  • Can write computer programs of relevance in geodynamics.
  • Has knowledge of the importance of computational geodynamics in academia.
  • Can do an independent research project in the area of computational geodynamics.
  • Is able to participate in a discussion on a research topic in computational geodynamics.

Semester of Instruction

Every second spring, uneven number years. The course runs only if enough students enrol



Required Previous Knowledge
Knowledge in Geodynamics and Basin Modelling
Recommended Previous Knowledge
Knowledge in computational methods in solid earth physics (GEOV219)
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 1.5 weeks (intensive block course)

Teaching using active learning techniques: 35 hours/week

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance
Mandatory active participation in all classes; all exercises have to be handed in and all exercises must be passed.
Forms of Assessment
Oral examination.
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 is only provided in semesters with teaching.
Reading List
The reading list will be available within June 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