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Theme 3: Earth and Planetary Dynamics

Earth and Planetary processes occur on long-term geological time scales. Even though these processes are very slow, they have a massive impact on long-term climate trends and acute natural hazards, such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

Predicting and mitigating such natural hazards, requires a thorough understanding of the geophysical, geochemical, geodynamical, and geological solid Earth and planetary processes. Research within Theme 3 focusses primarily on 1) mass and geochemical fluxes between planetary reservoirs and 2) physics and rates of Earth and planetary dynamics. The methodologies used include field and petrological observations, geochemical and isotopic analysis, dating, experimental petrology, analogue, numerical and thermodynamic modeling.

Current research topics and ongoing project are:

  • Geochemical fluxes driven by plate tectonics. The Earth is a dynamic planet that recycles minerals and elements. Where do these elements travel? Can we quantify and monitor the fluxes that carry these elements throughout the Earth’s evolution? And how do these chemical cycles influence climate over long time scales? Read more
  • Formation and destruction of the sub-continental Lithosphere. The oldest crust on Earth resides in Archean and Proterozoic cratons. These cratons with their mantle keels hold the key to understand the onset of modern plate tectonic processes. How can we find those keys? What do diamonds and their inclusions tell us about ancient tectono-magmatic events? What can they tell us about the carbon cycling in deep time and early Earth climate? Read more
  • The driving forces and consequences of plate tectonics.  The Earth’s crust is constantly changing. This deformation occurs at the surface, but is driven by forces at depth, in the Earth’s mantle. How fast does the Earth’s surface responds to slow mantle processes? What influence does that have on natural hazards, ocean circulation and the Earth’s climate? Read more
  • Rates and timescales of tectonic processes, mineral transformation and fluid flow in the crust. Fluids, and in particular water, are a key component in the Earth continental crust because water can act as a solvent, a catalyst enhancing chemical reactions, a transport medium for mass transport, and it controls the strength of rocks. Can we track down the sources and pathways of fluids in the crust? What does it tell us about the timescales over which fluids are mobile in the crust? How does this influence plate tectonic processes? Read more
  • Comparative planetology – Ancient and Extreme Environments. The Earth’s evolution is best understood when taking into account the processes that led to the formation and differentiation of terrestrial planetary bodies. How do habitable planets develop? Is there life on other planets and moons and how can we find out? Read more

The following research groups participate in research theme 3:

  • Crust processes (Prof. Wijbrans/Dr. Brouwer)
  • Isotope geochemistry (Dr. Vroon/ Dr. Koornneef)
  • Petrology (Prof. Gareth Davies)
  • Planetary science (Prof. Wim van Westrenen)
  • Sedimentology & stratigraphy (Prof. Klaudia Kuiper)
  • Tectonics (Prof. Wouter Schellart)