Advanced Geodynamics and Tectonics


Course Objective

The two principal aims of this course are:
(1) To develop deep insight and understanding of the process of
subduction, including the intimately related processes of mantle flow
and overriding plate deformation, and, more generally, to gain
qualitative and quantitative understanding as to the role that
subduction zones have played and continue to play in the evolution and
dynamics of planet Earth.
(2) To enhance your quantitative skills in the geosciences by using and
deriving a variety of equations and formulas that are important in the
fields of geodynamics, tectonics, geophysical fluid dynamics and

The mutual dependence and interrelatedness of different aspects of
subduction will be demonstrated, including subduction zone geology,
subduction zone kinematics, subduction zone geometry, subduction zone
dynamics and subduction-induced mantle flow. This provides the student
with an integrated view of subduction zone processes, mantle flow and
overriding plate deformation, which will furthermore illustrate the role
and the importance of subduction zones in driving plate tectonics and
mantle flow. The integrated view is further substantiated through both
global and local approaches, and both process-oriented and
phenomenological approaches. During the course you will be provided with
an overview of the different modelling techniques (analogue, numerical,
analytical) that are used to improve our understanding of subduction
zones in particular, and geodynamic processes in general.

During the course, you will develop new skills:
(1) To quantify plate velocities and plate boundary velocities on a
(2) To identify and quantify driving and resistive forces in subduction
(3) To evaluate and quantify overriding plate deformation rates at
subduction zones;
(4) To derive equations that are important in geodynamics and fluid
(5) To apply equations from geodynamics and fluid dynamics to geodynamic
(6) To critically assess, judge and discuss the relevant scientific
literature, including geodynamic modelling results presented in such
papers, and to be able to identify, analyse and evaluate the different
model assumptions and model simplifications, and how these assumptions
and simplifications might impact the model outcomes.

Course Content

This course will provide you with an overview of the geodynamics and
tectonics of subduction zones, which are located at convergent plate
boundaries on Earth, and more generally of plate tectonic processes,
mantle flow and geodynamic modelling. Key aspects of subduction zones
are discussed from a geological, kinematic, geometric and geodynamic
viewpoint, as well as in the context of the global set of active
subduction zones on Earth and case studies of natural examples.
Specific topics of the course are:
1. Subduction zone geology
2. Plate kinematics, subduction zone kinematics
3. Subduction zone geometry
4. Subduction zone dynamics
5. Overriding plate deformation during subduction
6. Geodynamic modelling (analogue, numerical)
7. Geodynamic modelling (Stokes flow)
8. Geodynamic modelling (scaling, boundary conditions)
9. Subduction zone initiation
10. Subduction zone termination (collision, obduction, slab detachment)
11. Unusual subduction (ridge/plateau subduction, flat slab subduction,
continental subduction)

Teaching Methods

Lectures (11 x 2 hours) and practicals (11 x 2 hours), one day of oral
presentations (8 hours).

Method of Assessment

Practical exercises (63%), written paper review (12%), oral presentation

Entry Requirements

BSc Geology


The course is mostly based on published scientific literature in the
fields of Geodynamics, Tectonics, Geophysics and Geology.

Target Audience

1st year MSc students in Solid Earth Sciences.

Recommended background knowledge

Geodynamics, Tectonics, Structural Geology and Geophysics courses at BSc

General Information

Course Code AM_1173
Credits 6 EC
Period P5
Course Level 400
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator prof. dr. W.P. Schellart
Examiner prof. dr. W.P. Schellart
Teaching Staff

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Seminar
Target audiences

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