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3-D computer models aid research of Earth's core

The work of a University of Alaska Fairbanks post-doctoral fellow will be included in an article appearing in the upcoming issue of the journal, Science.

The article reveals that scientists are now able to directly measure heat that moves from the molten metal of Earth’s core into a region at the base of the mantle, a boundary located halfway to Earth’s center, about 1,740 miles deep. Measuring heat deep inside the earth is important because the intense temperatures drive processes like the movement of tectonic plates.

For his contribution to the research, Michael S. Thorne, who holds a dual appointment with the Geophysical Institute and the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center (ARSC) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, created 3-dimensional simulations of earthquakes, allowing scientists to see how seismic waves travel through the earth. These simulations are able to predict ground motion on earth’s surface producing what is known as synthetic seismograms. The simulations of wave behavior assist scientists as they identify how material is moving inside the earth, specifically at the core-mantle boundary deep beneath the Pacific plate.

Thorne put in an impressive 70,000 computing hours on the ARSC IBM supercomputer, “Iceberg,” for this project.

Michael S. Thorne | EurekAlert!
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