Geophysics, Physics tutorial


Geophysics is the interdisciplinary physical science concerned with nature of earth and its environment and as such tries to apply knowledge and methods of physics, mathematics and chemistry to understand structure and dynamic behavior of earth and its environment. Required sequence of Mathematics, Physics and Geophysics courses is developed to give a basic structure on which to build the program with science electives usually selected from Geology, Astronomy, Mathematics, Oceanography, Physics and Chemistry courses.

Solid Earth Geophysics:

Many Earth's geological and geophysical activity takes place as our planet is cooling to space, thereby inducing currents of cold sinking and hot rising material, otherwise called as convection. Convection in Earth's mantle is engine of plate tectonics and gives rise to creation of ocean basins and continents; in the same way, convection in Earth's liquid-iron outer-core powers geomagnetic field. Knowing how Earth has been evolving in this manner is one of the many characteristics of studying physics of Earth's interior. Geophysical research is basically multidisciplinary there are various experimental, observational, and theoretical methods to investigate structure and dynamics of Earth from atomic to global scale.

Seismology: It employs elastic waves produced by natural earthquakes and controlled sources to investigate internal structure of Earth. Seismic wave propagation through mantle, for instance, is sensitive not only to hot and cold regions which stimulate buoyant convection, but also to fabric of mantle rock sheared by convection (called as seismic anisotropy).

Mineral and rock physics: It's study gives information of properties of rocks and other planetary materials at great pressures and temperatures. Knowledge from such experiments is utilized to infer properties of materials deep within the Earth, like elasticity, deformability and fabric of material, and melting, all of which find out response of deep-Earth materials to cooling, stresses, magnetism, and other activity related with dynamics of deep Earth.

Geodynamics: It employs laboratory experiments, mathematical theories and numerical simulation to model fluid motions of Earth's interior which arise from convective forcing. These models explain how mantle circulates, how tectonic plates are produced, how volcanoes arise etc.

Continental geology: It gives observational constraints on long-term dynamical behavior of Earth through continental reconstructions that are utilized to find out past rates of true polar wander and to know relationships between supercontinents and mantle convection.

It is a non-destructive and non-invasive Earth Science which uses very latest science and knowledge in instrumentation, data acquisition and advanced computer modeling and interpretation in subsurface exploration. We employ seismic, electromagnetic, magnetic, radiometric and gravitational technologies and methods to find out structure and composition of natural (and occasionally artificial) materials below Earth's surface without requirement for drilling or excavation.

Geophysics can be utilized in several diverse situations like:

  • Hydrocarbons, Minerals and Underground Water Exploration
  • Archaeology
  • Atmospherics
  • Oceanography
  • Planetary Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geohazards like volcanoes and earthquakes
  • Urban Utility Mapping
  • Forensics

Geophysical Techniques:

Geophysicists utilize a variety of scientific methods to find out subsurface structures of Earth and other bodies.

Main geophysical methods utilized are:

  • Seismic and Sonar
  • Radiometrics and Ground Penetrating Radar
  • Magnetism and Electromagnetism
  • Gravity

Importance of Geophysics:

Geophysics is a science that deals with investigating Earth's internal structure dynamics, using methods and procedures of Physics and Mathematics. Physical properties of earth materials (rocks, air, and water masses) like density, magnetization, elasticity, and electrical conductivity all permit inference about those materials to be made from measurements of corresponding physical fields - gravity, seismic waves, magnetic fields, and different types of electrical fields. As Geophysics includes sciences of Physics, Mathematics, Geology it is a really multidisciplinary physical science.

Geophysics has important impact on welfare of society and planet. Exploration geophysics has assisted us to find energy sources which have driven much of social and economic advances over last century.

Now those methods are being utilized to safeguard natural environment. Regional magnetic and resistivity surveys explain about distribution and movement of pollutants whereas large scale global seismology assists us to recognize areas at risk from earthquakes and tsunami.

Data Acquisition:

Methods like seismic, sonar and ground penetrating radar can be categorized as active where the signal is produced and directed into medium being analyzed. As different layers within medium have different densities, part of signal is reflected back to surface as signal passes through layers. Other equipment and instrumentation (geophones or hydrophones) is then utilized to detect signal and record its new properties.

Other methods like magnetism, electromagnetism and gravity, are passive in that instrumentation is utilized to detect changes in medium's properties because of variations in density and content. For instance, body of iron ore will have much higher magnetic and gravitational properties than earth surrounding it.


Once data has been gathered in field it can then be analyzed utilizing powerful computers and sophisticated software applications. After examination, 2 and 3 dimensional maps of subsurface, magnetic or gravitational structure of test area are produced.

In the case of resources examination, based on results of data examination, exploration team (incorporates of geophysicists, petroleum, geologists, production and reservoir engineers and drilling) will find out most promising sites to continue with further exploration.

Geophysics in other fields:

The use of geophysical technology is not restricted to resources industry. It is also utilized in several other areas of scientific research and examination. In Archaeology, for instance, geophysics is utilized to reveal remains of buried cities, walls, ancient water courses and graves among other things. Ground penetrating radar and resistivity profiling are two of the many methods utilized here. In Oceanography and Atmospherics geophysics is utilized to analyze structure and motion of atmosphere and oceans.

Today, geophysical methods are utilized widely in subsurface exploration as they generate fast and accurate results and are, more significantly, non-destructive and non-invasive.

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