Geophysics

Geophysics is a subject of the natural sciences, which is concerned with the physical properties of the Earth and the processes that originate them. It deals with the physics of the Earth, including its oceans, atmosphere and immediate space environment. Geophysics uses both observational and quantitative methods to investigate the physical processes that underlie the Earths formation and evolution, using methods applied at all scales from the study of rock forming minerals (principally silicates) through to the entire planetary scale. The Geophysics Section studies the tectonic and dynamic structure of the Earth using the methods of physics combined with the other geosciences – geology, geochemistry, petrology, geochronology and paleoecology. The main areas of research are seismology, electomagnetism, the geodynamics of continents and oceans and potential fields (gravity and magnetism).

In all sub-disciplines of geophysics, the Geophysics Section has theoretical, numerical and observational activities. Our main research areas comprise:

  • Global Geophysical Modelling
  • Global and Local Seismology
  • Marine Geophysics
  • Geophysical Imaging
  • Volcanoes and Earthquakes

In addition to geophysical research, the Geophysics Section maintains the Irish National Seismic Network (INSN), which presently comprise five broadband seismic stations. One of these, DSB in the Dublin Mountains, is part of the Geofon global network run by the GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, and another, VAL in Valentia, is operated in conjunction with Met Eireann.

Also, the Section is the National Data Centre (NDC) for Ireland’s contribution to the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.

The Mallet Professorship of Seismology in the Geophysics Section is named after a famous Irish scientist, Robert Mallet 1810-1881, also known as the “father of controlled source seismology”.

A brief history: The School was established by an Order made by the Irish Government on the 26th March, 1947. This was the third constituent School of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. The house 5, Merrion Square, was assigned by the Government as the headquarters of the School and home of the Geophysical and Cosmic Ray Sections.

Its purpose is to use the ideas and methods of Physics to understand the world around us, from the interior of the Earth to the edges of the observable universe, in effect using the cosmos as a natural laboratory to observe phenomena on time, length and energy scales which are way beyond what is possible in conventional laboratories. The School originally worked in the areas of classical optical astronomy, cosmic ray physics (which at that time was largely experimental particle physics) and geophysics (which then included meteorology). Over the years the cosmic ray section drifted away from particle physics and moved into astro particle physics and high-energy astrophysics to eventually merge with the Astronomy section as a broadly based Astronomy and Astrophysics group incorporating a Centre for Astro particle Physics and Astrophysics (CAPPA). The Astrophysics section moved to 31 Fitzwilliam Place in 2007.

The Geophysics section dropped the meteorological work and broadened the range of geophysical techniques used to study the Earth from mainly local gravitational field studies to modern active and passive seismology, magnetotelluric studies, and space-based studies of the Earth’s gravitational and magnetic fields.