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Dr David Al-Attar


Solid Earth Geophysics

Bullard Labs

Madingley Rise,
Madingley Road,

Office Phone: +44 (0) 1223 348935

Research Interests

I am interested in the continuum mechanics of planetary bodies, and the use of inverse theory to learn about their internal structure and composition. Most of my own work is on mathematical or computational problems in solid mechanics, but I am also involved in the practical application of these methods through a range of international collaborations.

My doctoral studies were done at the University of Oxford under the supervision of Prof. John Woodhouse. During this time I worked mostly on the theory of the Earth's free oscillations, providing a rigorous treatment  of the non-linear spectral problem associated with the linearised motion of viscoelastic bodies. I also developed some useful computational techniques for generating synthetic seismograms based on free oscillation theory.

While I retain a strong interest in seismology, my focus has broadened over the years to include a range of related problems. This includes glacial isostatic adjustment, post-seismic deformation, body-tides, and orbital nutations. In all cases, my work seeks to improve both our ability to accurately model these processes, and to also develop useful tools for the solution of the associated inverse problems.

I have ongoing projects in the following areas:

  • Elastic wave propagation
  • Free oscillations of the Earth
  • Geophysical inverse problems
  • Glacial isostatic adjustment
  • Solid Earth tides
  • Rotational dynamics


Tomography ; Geophysics ; Geodesy ; Seismology


Key Publications

Crawford O., Al-Attar D., Tromp J., & Mitrovica J.X., 2016. Forward and inverse modelling of post-seismic deformation. Geophy. J. Int., 208, 845-876.

Lau H.C.P., Faul U., Mitrovica J.X., Al-Attar D., Tromp J.,  & Garapic G., 2016. Anelasticity across seismic to tidal timescales: a self-consistent approach. Geophy. J. Int., 208, 368-384.

Al-Attar D. & Crawford O., 2016. Particle relabelling transformations in elastodynamics. Geophys. J. Int., 205, 575-593.

Lau H.C.P., Yang H.Y., Tromp J., Mitrovica J.X., Latychev K., & Al-Attar D., 2015. A normal mode treatment of semi-diurnal body tides on an aspherical, rotating, anelastic Earth. Geophys. J. Int., 202, 1392--1406.

Al-Attar D. & Tromp J., 2014. Sensitivity kernels for viscoelastic loading based on adjoint merhods. Geophys. J. Int., 196, 34--77.

Al-Attar D., Woodhouse J.H. & Deuss A.F., 2012. Calculation of mode spectra in laterally heterogeneous earth models using an iterative direct solution method. Geophys. J. Int., 189, 1038--1046.

Al-Attar D. & Woodhouse J.H., 2010. On the parametrization of equilibrium stress fields in the Earth. Geophys. J. Int., 181, 567-576.

Al-Attar D. & Woodhouse J.H., 2008. Calculation of seismic displacement fields in self-gravitating earth models -- applications of minor vectors and symplectic structure. Geophys. J. Int., 175, 1176--1208.

Al-Attar D., 2007. A solution of the elastodynamic equation in an anelastic earth model. Geophys. J. Int., 171, 755--760.