Patterns in our Planet: a small rock sample in which mica and quartz have spatially differentiated over time and under heat and stress to create microscopic patterns.

Patterns in our Planet: a small rock sample in which mica and quartz have spatially differentiated over time and under heat and stress to create microscopic patterns.

Patterns in a complex planet

Reference: 08/17

The deep Earth, oceans and atmosphere form a tightly coupled and complex system in which small changes in one part can have a cascading effect on other parts.

  • 5 February 2008 | Updated 21 September 2012

CSIRO will host a symposium in May as a step toward a breakthrough in Earth System modelling, a new area of science requiring collaboration among many disciplines.

“The Earth System is basically a non-equilibrium system. To understand how it works we need to couple diverse physical, chemical and mechanical processes which until now have been studied independently of each other,” explains Dr Alison Ord of CSIRO Exploration & Mining.

“We are bringing together mathematicians, seismologists, geoscientists, and atmospheric and marine modellers to face the formidable challenges in understanding the proverbial butterfly effect of snowflake falling on Mt Everest resulting in an earthquake in Pasadena.

“The Earth System is basically a non-equilibrium system. To understand how it works we need to couple diverse physical, chemical and mechanical processes which until now have been studied independently of each other,”
explains Dr Alison Ord of CSIRO Exploration & Mining.

“Together, we need to come up with better and more efficient numerical models and theoretical concepts to tackle mind-boggling questions.”

Big questions to be posed at the symposium include:

  • does feedback from heat generated by mechanical and chemical dissipation lead to self-consistent emergence of structure on the scale of the Earth?
  • are there key thermo-mechanical-chemical processes that result in critical temperature ranges from which earthquakes are generated?
  • is there a universal mechanism that unites phenomena across scales in fluid, solid and chemical mechanics and will it help us to understand complex processes in the oceans, atmosphere and solid Earth?

Five key themes will be addressed: geodynamics; seismology and damage mechanics; fluid dynamics including atmospheric and marine sciences and industrial mixing; material science; and the mathematical basis for complex systems and non-equilibrium thermodynamics.

A better understanding of the complexities of the Earth System is widely recognised as a high priority in the geoscience community.

In 2005 Science magazine posed the 25 most important unresolved scientific questions for the next quarter century, six of which were about Earth System science.

The symposium, Patterns in our Planet: Defining new concepts for the application of multiscale non-equilibrium thermodynamics to Earth System science, will be held from Monday 12 to Friday 16 May at Whalers Inn Resort, Victor Harbour, South Australia.

Conference details: Patterns in our planet: defining new concepts for the application of multiscale non-equilibrium thermodynamics to earth system science (Victor Harbour 12-16 May 08)

Download image at: Patterns in a complex planet.

Read more media releases in our Media section.