Professor Todd Ehlers of Tübingen University’s Geoscience Department will receive a European Research Council Consolidator Grant of €2m over five years for his project titled: EXtreme Tectonics and Rapid Erosion in Mountain Environments (EXTREME).
Ehlers’ research focuses on the movement and deformation of continental plates – and the effects these processes have on climate and erosion. Plate boundaries are areas of particular activity, resulting in earthquakes, landslides, and extreme weather conditions. Research into plate deformation is aimed at predicting and mitigating the danger to humans.
The interplay of climate and tectonics at plate corners is at the heart of Ehlers’ research. He challenges the notion that rapid deformation at plate corners is caused from the top down by factors like erosion; he works on the premise that deformation comes from below, where continental plates collide. Subducting plates buckle not just in two dimensions, but in three – and can produce major deformation in the plate above. However, studies of mountain building and erosion are complicated because when tectonic processes build large mountains such as the Himalaya or the Andes their topographic development modifies global climate over millions of years. Ehlers’ proposal investigates the links between tectonic, climate, and erosional processes during mountain building.
The EXTREME project will develop a coupled 3-D thermomechanical model of plate boundaries’ physical changes over time with corresponding models of the atmosphere and mountain erosion. The models will be integrated with geologic data and optimised using comparisons with past tectonic and climate events in the Himalaya, Alaska, the Olympic Mountains in the northwest USA and the Andes.
Professor Todd Ehlers came to Tübingen in 2009 from the University of Michigan where he was formerly a professor. He heads the Earth System Dynamics research group.
The European Research Council awards Consolidator Grants to experienced researchers to help them build an independent career and their own team of researchers. The aim is to promote creative, younger academics and to bring new ideas into fields of research. Each project is financed with up to €2m for up to five years.
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