From hours to eons, with particular focus on the interactions between ice sheets, oceans and the solid Earth
The study of the dynamics of the Earth is complex. Its interior is obscured and we are faced with an inverse problem in which, from observations taken on the surface inferences are drawn about the deeper structure and the processes that have led to this structure, using all physical and chemical tools available.
My part in this has focussed on the planet’s response to forces applied to it, or generated within it, so as to reach an understanding of its rheology; of its elastic and non-elastic behaviour over a very wide range of time scales from millions of years to days.
The complexity of the problem is compounded by the fact that the surface observations are often contaminated by what happens in the fluid surface regimes - the oceans, atmosphere, ice sheets - and that we often have to delve into non-traditional lines of observational evidence.
I will explore briefly my own search for the elusive earth-response function which in most cases led to more insight into the fluid regimes than into the actual solid earth’s response function and then focus on the example: of the ice-earth-ocean interactions and its consequences on sea level change: how from observations of the earth’s response we gain insight into both the past ice sheets and the earth’s rheology.