The Earth Sciences B course deals with the subsurface processes of the lithosphere and asthenosphere. Igneous and metamorphic petrology, mineralogy and deep-earth-geochemistry are the primary focus, backed-up by case studies of volcanic and mountainous settings. Knowledge of Part IA Earth Sciences is assumed, although in exceptional cases it may be possible to read Part IB Earth Sciences without having read Earth Sciences at Part IA. This needs careful discussion with the course coordinator and your college Director of Studies.
Fieldwork consists of a trip to Southwest England around Easter, and if you intend to do third year Earth Sciences you will already have done the Cumbria Mapping Course before the start of your second year.
For full information see the 2016-2017 Other student resources are available on Moodle.
The origins of the Earth
We'll find out how the Earth began through exploring its chemical history. When and how did the cocktail of elements that make up the Earth form? And how did this evolve into the planet we know today? These questions lead us to explore melting and crystallisation of rocks and to investigate how key elements give further clues to the origin of the mantle and the crust.
Mineralogy and Crystallography
Learning the processes at the atomic scale that underpin crystal structure is a vital tool for microscopic examination of rocks and minerals. The suite of minerals that compose igneous and metamorphic rocks is studied, and physical and chemical transitions between them explored.
Igneous processes and volcanism
Igneous rocks offer a window on processes going on below the Earth's surface. By understanding the genesis of igneous rocks from various volcanic settings, models for production of magma at spreading ridges, hotspots and subduction zones are devised.
Metamorphic processes and mountain-building
Crustal processes that form metamorphic rocks can
operate during the evolution of mountain belts. By understanding the microscopic controls on mineral growth, reaction and deformation, we learn how to interpret rock textures, and diagnose the pressure and temperature conditions under which they formed.
Throughout the course, igneous and metamorphic processes are illustrated in a series of case studies from different parts of the world. The Himalayas are used to explain the origins of mountain belts and the interaction of tectonics and metamorphism, while the western USA, including Mount St. Helens and the Cascades, provides an explanation of the relationship between active volcanoes and their underlying magma chambers.
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