Research / Research AreasEarth Sciences
Research topics in this area center primarily around the analysis of mathematical models of components of the Earth system, under different conditions in Earth's past as well as projections for its future. Examples include modeling the formation of river networks and investigations of Arctic sea ice retreat under conditions of increased greenhouse gas emissions.
By constructing simplified mathematical models, we hope to clarify our understanding of what drives the behavior of complex geophysical systems.
For example, what causes some rivers to form meandering, sinuous shapes, while others branch repeatedly? Why does the roughness of surface topography vary in different areas, and how does erosion affect it? What has caused ice ages to recur at fairly regular intervals over the past several million years?
Climate & Ecology
Research in this area is facilitated by our participation in the NSF-funded Mathematics and Climate Research Network. A current focus is on understanding mathematical mechanisms behind tipping points in the Earth system. When a threshold for tipping is crossed, the result can be an abrupt, and possibly irreversible, qualitative change in how the Earth system operates.
One focus is related to global climate change and ecological systems that are affected by climate change, such as models for desertification when there are changes in precipitation in semi-arid eco-systems. Another focus is on modeling abrupt climate change events in Earth's past as determined from paleo-climate records.