Home > Faculty/Staff > Katie Cooper
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
Research interests:Broadly, I am interested in how the Earth and other planets have evolved both thermally and tectonically. Specifically, I am drawn to such questions as: why do some areas of the Earth deform whereas others do not, do continents play more of a role than just passive riders in plate tectonics, why is plate tectonics preferred on Earth and not other planets, how long has plate tectonics operated on Earth and what existed before, why are there regions of the Earth that have resisted the destructive forces of plate tectonics for billions of years and what can these areas tell us about the history of our planet?
These questions are linked as they can be described by the coupling between the lithosphere and the mantle as well as between solid and fluid mechanics. The Earth is a large heat engine removing energy provided from decay of radioactive material and residual heat from its origin and subsequent cooling. This heat loss allows for the interior of the Earth to behave as a fluid over long time scales (millions of years). This shifting and adjusting of the Earth’s interior (aka mantle convection) is the driving mechanism within plate tectonic theory bringing with it the surface expressions of earthquakes, volcanoes and mountain building. The tenets of mantle convection and its connection to the surface of the Earth can be described by coupling solid and fluid mechanics. With this in mind, I use a combination of theoretical and computational modeling to research the processes controlling and influencing the connection between the lithosphere and mantle convection.
Not one to dwell strictly in the theoretical world, I also collaborate with seismologists and geochemists to guide the interpretations of these models and their applicability to the Earth’s natural systems.
Courses:TBD, but be on the outlook for a spring semester geophysics offering!
Graduate Student:Interested in big picture Earth problems? Want to use cutting edge techniques? Enjoy physics as well as geology? Contact me!
- Cooper, C.M. and C. P. Conrad, “Does the mantle control the maximum thickness of cratons?” (in preparation with intention of Geophysical Research Letters) (2008).
- Cooper, C.M., A. Lenardic, and L. Moresi, “Effects of continental insulation and the partitioning of heat producing elements on the Earth’s heat loss”, Geophysical Research Letters, 33, doi:10.1029/2006GL026291,(2006).
- Cooper, C.M., A. Lenardic, A. Levander, and L. Moresi, “Creation and Preservation of Cratonic Lithosphere: Seismic Constraints and Geodynamic Models”, AGU Monograph Series: Archean Geodynamics and Environments, 75-88(2006).
- Lee, C.-T., A. Lenardic, C.M. Cooper, F. Niu and A. Levander, “The role of chemical boundary layers in regulating the thickness of continental and oceanic thermal boundary layers”, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 230, 379-395 (2005).
- Cooper, C.M., A. Lenardic, and L. Moresi, “The
thermal structure of stable continental lithosphere within a dynamic
mantle”, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 222,
- Niu, F., A. Levander, C.M. Cooper, C.-T. Lee, A. Lenardic,
and D.E. James, “Seismic Constraints on the Depth and Composition
of the Mantle Keel beneath the Kaapvaal Craton.” Earth and
Planetary Science Letters, 224, 337-346 (2004).
- O'Neill, C., L.-N. Moresi, A. Lenardic, and C.M. Cooper, “Inferences on Australia's heat flow and thermal structure from mantle convection modelling results”, Australian Journal of Earth Science, Geological Society of Australia Special Publication 22, 163–178 (2003).