URSA lecturer is moved by geological movement

by Mikhail Ronnander

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Dr. Jeffrey T. Freymueller. Photo courtesy of UAF.

Next week in Schaible Auditorium, Dr.  Jeffrey T. Freymueller will be presenting his work in the field of plate tectonics as part of the Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activity program. Freymueller will be discussing his work in measuring in real time the movement of the plates that make up the Earth’s crust.

Freymueller’s research involves separating out very minute movements in the Earth’s crust from other factors, such as swelling of a volcano before an eruption. Having a stream of data about the motion of the surface of the planet allows GPS makers to be more accurate.

He is also researching the motion and deformation of the Earth caused by plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanism and adding or removing ice from glaciers. The research focuses on how the Earth responds to these changes to find out more about the change itself.

Another portion of the research deals with the changes in gravity of the planet and using that to map how mass moves around the planet. This mass is largely composed of “water in its different forms,” Freymueller said.

The model Freymueller developed for the National Geodetic Survey is being used by land surveyors in Alaska to “remove most of the effects of crustal movements from their own position measurements,” according to Freymueller. He also studies how geological processes create hazards for society processes, like earthquakes and volcanoes which are exciting to study but pose serious dangers.

Some of the work Freymueller did with a student in California has helped people be able to measure changes in the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada in California and measure the effects of a drought in the western Lower 48 by measuring the uplift of the surface of the Earth as water leaves it.

Freymueller hopes that those who attend the research showcase will gain a greater respect for geology. “If anyone sees geology as the study of rocks that never change they could be farther from the truth,” he said.

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