Regional heat flow studies; thermal state of the lithosphere; heat flow
and mid-plate volcanism; geophysical characterization of geothermal systems;
thermal aspects of plate interactions; thermal aspects of groundwater flow;
influence of lithospheric thermal state on its mechanical behavior; thermal
histories of sedimentary basins; heat flow and hydrothermal circulation
in the sea floor; and climate change inferred from borehole temperatures.
Research Projects Involving Graduate Students:
Climate Change Inferred From Borehole
Rob Harris (Ph.D.
Univ. Utah, now faculty at Oregon State Univ.) has analyzed borehole
temperature profiles to infer the last 500 years of temperature change
at the Earth's surface and has developed techniques to compare these histories
with surface air temperature data and proxy records of temperature change
for the period of overlap. These techniques are being applied globally
and have important implications in the global warming debate.
Former students have used a weather station colocated with a 150 m
borehole (Emigrant Pass Observatory)
to study the tracking of ground and air temperatures, and investigate
effects on that tracking. Scott Putnam built the original observatory
and investigated tracking at time scales between minutes and years.
Marshall Bartlett (PhD. Univ. Utah, now at BYU-Hawaii) used the
observatory data and a simple, but complete, snow model to quantify
the effect of snow on the ground temperature record. His work at the
observatory was then extended to the entire Northern Hemisphere.
Mike Davis (B.S. Univ Utah, M.S. Univ. Hawaii)
is currently investigating the ground surface energy balance using the
Emigrant Pass Observatory and new observatories being built in the
Pacific Northwest, with particular emphasis on the role of land-use
Subsurface Investigations with
High-Prevision Gravity, GPS and InSAR.
Paul Gettings (B.A. U. Chicago,
M.S. U. Utah) is using repeated high-precision (~5 uGal) gravity
measurements to understand fluid-flow behavior in subsurface
reservoirs. Repeated high-precision gravity measurements provide direct
measurements of subsurface mass changes over time. Given the low cost
of gravity observations, comprehensive spatial and temporal coverage
of large reservoirs is possible. The method is applicable to any subsurface reservoir
with mass change over time, including petroleum/gas reservoirs,
geothermal systems, and ground water reservoirs. Gravity data, coupled
with GPS and/or InSAR, which give a measure of elevation changes,
are being used to understand the elastic and inelastic response of
aquifer systems to groundwater withdrawal and recharge.
Christian Hardwick (B.S. U. Utah) is using high-precision
gravity measurements in central and southern Utah to look for
structurally-controlled blind geothermal resources. The interpretation
techniques being developed for this project will also find applicability
in fault-hunting for seismic hazard assessment in urban areas, such
as Salt Lake City.
Thermal Isostasy of the Continents
Derrick Hasterok (B.S. Caltech, M.S.
& Ph.D. U.
Utah) is conducting research into the thermal state of the continents.
Using a combination of elevation, heat flow, and seismic data, Derrick
is determining why parts of continents are at the elevation they are.
This research will ultimately culminate in the ability to use aggregate
data for a province to determine whether it is in steady state.
Thermal and Electrical Structure
of the Colorado Plateau-Great Basin Transition Zone
Derrick Hasterok (B.S. Caltech, M.S. U.
Utah) is conducting research into the thermal and electrical state of
the CP-GB transition zone. Using magnetotelluric and thermal data as
inputs to 2- and 3-d models of the zone, Derrick will determine the
history and current state of the transition zone crust. This work is
being done in close cooperation with Phil Wannemaker at the Energy & Geosciences
Noble Gas Tracers for Groundwater Flow
Melissa Masbruch (B.S. U. Utah, M.S. U.
Wisconsin-Madison) is researching aspects of using noble gas tracers for
determining groundwater flow paths. In particular, Melissa is looking
at how to best determine the recharge temperature, which has a direct
bearing on the noble gas concentrations used to infer flowpaths.
Erosion of Active Mountain Belts.
How does topography develop in active tectonic regimes? Todd Ehlers
(B.S. Calvin College, M.S. x2 Univ. Utah, Ph.D. Univ. Utah )
is addressing this problem using coupled thermal and surface process models
to interpret low-temperature thermochronometers (fission track and (U-Th)/He).
Thermochronometers sampled at the Earth's surface provide us with important
information about the temperature history of a rock. Todd is using analysis
from thermochronometer samples, and various 2D and 3D finite element
models to determin the topographic and exhumational history of
various active tectonic regions. See Prof. Ehler's webpage for
Hydrothermal Circulation in Young Sea
We have worked with scientists from the Pacific Geoscience Centre in
Canada to study how fluids circulate through the oceanic crust on sedimented
flanks of a mid-ocean ridge. We have conducted several oceanic cruises
to gather heat flow and seismic data on the eastern flank of the Juan de
Fuca Ridge, that were used to constrain numerical models of hydrothermal
Thermal Histories of Sedimentary Basins.
Previous work by Phil Armstrong (Ph.D. Univ. Utah, now at Cal State Fullerton)
studied the Taranaki basin, New Zealand where plate tectonics and
recent volcanism provide a mouth-watering variety of thermal events
and fields that control the maturation of hydrocarbons. Work by Brian
McPherson (Ph.D. Univ. Utah, now at New Mexico Tech.) evaluated the
relative importance of compaction disequilibria and kerogen conversion
in producing overpressures in the Uinta basin, Eastern Utah.