The Living Earth

Even though we can rarely feel it, the lithospere - the rigid outermost shell of the Earth's crust - is in constant motion. The driving forces are fundamental processes deep in the Earth's core. The main research aim for The geodynamics group at the University in Bergen is to gain a deeper understanding of these processes.

The lithospere consists of a number of tectonic plates. Six of these are the major continents: Eurasia, Africa, Australia, Antarctica, North and South America. The others are wholly or patially submerged oceanic plates. Their position today are a result of continental drift. Throughout history the tectonic plates have been in constant motion. They have broken up, drifted apart and collided, creating mountain ranges such as Himalaya and The Alps. Some 400 million years ago, Norway and Greenland were connected in such a mountain range: The Caledonides were a range 6 000 kilometres long and likely reaching as high as Himalaya does today. When the continents that had shaped this massif once again drifted apart, a new ocean floor was created in part out of organic sediments that through the ages have matured to the hydrocarbons that today are the basis of Norway's petroleum economy.

Relations such as this are central to the work of The geodynamics group that studies and teaches what shapes and changes the planet we are living on - in short and long term perspectives. The tectonic plates move two to five centimetres a year, creating deformation on both a global and local scale. The group's research are among other topics focused on earth quakes, the creation of mountain ranges, continental drift and the reconstruction of prehistoric events through quantitative modelling.

The research work comprises field studies, observations and analysis, and combines empirical data from traditional scientific fields with the laws of physics and mathematical models. Geophysical methods are used to map the Earth's interior while geological methods are used to understand processes closer to the surface of the Earth. Geodynamics also includes a number of disciplines not usually associated with geology.

The geodynamics group also run a seismic network consisting of more than 30 stations along Norway and on Svalbard, Bjørnøya, Hopen and Jan Mayen among other locations. The purpose is to measure natural seismicity. The network records more than 200 events in Norway each month - most of these at seas.