EOSC 514 · Introduction to Geological Fluid Mechanics

This course is not eligible for Credit/D/Fail grading.

Course Availability & Schedule

Course Syllabus

Course Webpage


Learning Goals

Student learning objectives in order of increasing levels of learning

  • 1) Solve simple problems in fluid mechanics. The student will acquire and apply necessary analytical skills (mathematical and physical) to classify and solve simple given problems involving fluids.
  • 2) Pose simple problems in geological fluid mechanics as models. The student will develop a personalized approach for constructing a conceptual and technical understanding of the mechanics involved in straightforward fluids problems.
  • 3) Understand analog models of complex problems. The student will be able to reconstruct and understand existing mathematical representations of complicated problems involving fluids. The student will be able to discern and articulate verbally the strengths and weaknesses of such models.
  • 4) Reduce complex (intractable) problems in geological fluid mechanics into some number of simpler (tractable) component problems. The student will be able to construct a model of a complex system and understand the strengths and limitations of such a model system. The student will be able to articulate verbally the value and limitations of such a model.  


Mark Jellinek


Fluid Mechanics by authors Potter and Foss

Course Content

Many problems in the Earth and planetary sciences involve fluid flow.  Examples include the formation and subsequent thermal evolution of planets, the generation of planetary magnetic fields, the generation, rise, chemical differentiation, flow and eruption of magmas, sedimentation and mechanical erosion at riverbeds, the flow of groundwater, and circulation and mixing in the atmosphere and oceans.  
This course presents a general introduction to the broad discipline of geological fluid mechanics. It is a reasonable prerequisite to courses such as EOSC 512 (Advanced Geophysical Fluid Dynamics) and EOSC 554 (Theoretical Glaciology). The course will introduce generic problem solving strategies in fluid mechanics and establish fundamental concepts including the continuum mechanics and kinematics of fluids, integral and differential forms of the equations of motion, boundary conditions and stability.  Understanding of core concepts is constructed by examining aspects of a number of special limits and features of varied geological flows.

Geological flows are rich in their variety and complexity and we will explore a lot of them. They are never boring and they will constantly challenge the extent to which you understand fundamental concepts. In many cases, to make the geological problem “tractable” we have to make approximations or simplifications. Such exercises begin with learning to observe, think physically and ask deliberate questions, but they enable us to classify or characterize behavior and build understanding of complex behavior in methodical ways. This course consequently stresses physical insight: In addition to developing strategies for solving the equations of motion in various limits there is a strong emphasis on learning to observe characteristic features of real flows such that physical understanding can be constructed with appropriate scaling analysis or dimensional reasoning. 
This course is open to all graduate students and undergraduate students with permission (you will probably have to take the class as a 400 level directed study).  Graduate students will each do a project that can involve laboratory experiments, theoretical work or numerical analysis of a geological flow of their choice. This course is altered in alternate years.