EOSC 514 Introduction to Geological Fluid Mechanics, Spring 2018


Instructor: Mark Jellinek, EOS South 257

TA: Anna Grau (agraugal@gmail.com)

Where: ESB 5106

When: T (12:30-3:30) Th (2-3:30)


Texts: Fluid Mechanics by Potter and Foss, some chapters from Engineering Fluid Mechanics by Crowe, Elger and Roberson and reading from other sources as needed.



Many problems in the Earth and planetary sciences involve fluid flow.  Examples include the formation and subsequent thermal evolution of planets, the generation of planetary magnetic fields, the generation, rise, chemical differentiation, flow and eruption of magmas, sedimentation and mechanical erosion at riverbeds, the flow of groundwater, and circulation and mixing in the atmosphere and oceans.  
This course presents a general introduction to the broad discipline of geological fluid mechanics. It is a reasonable prerequisite to courses such as EOSC 512 (Advanced Geophysical Fluid Dynamics) and EOSC 554 (Theoretical Glaciology). The course will introduce generic problem solving strategies in fluid mechanics and establish fundamental concepts including the continuum mechanics and kinematics of fluids, integral and differential forms of the equations of motion, boundary conditions and stability.  Understanding of core concepts is constructed by examining aspects of a number of special limits and features of varied geological flows.

Geological flows are rich in their variety and complexity and we will explore a lot of them. They are never boring and they will constantly challenge the extent to which you understand fundamental concepts. In many cases, to make the geological problem “tractable” we have to make approximations or simplifications. Such exercises begin with learning to observe, think physically and ask deliberate questions that inevitably challenge whatever is our intuition. The process enables us to classify or characterize behavior and build understanding of complex behavior in methodical ways. This course consequently stresses physical insight: In addition to developing strategies for solving the equations of motion in various limits there is a strong emphasis on learning to observe characteristic features of real flows such that physical understanding can be constructed with appropriate scaling analysis or dimensional reasoning.  


Student learning objectives in order of increasing levels of learning

1) Solve simple problems in fluid mechanics. The student will acquire and apply necessary analytical skills  (mathematical and physical) to classify and solve simple given problems involving fluids.

2) Pose simple problems in geological fluid mechanics as models. The student will develop a personalized approach for constructing a conceptual and technical understanding of the mechanics involved in straightforward fluids problems.

3) Understand analog models of complex problems. The student will be able to reconstruct and understand existing mathematical representations of complicated problems involving fluids. The student will be able to discern and articulate verbally the strengths and weaknesses of such models.

4) Reduce complex (intractable) problems in geological fluid mechanics into some number of simpler (tractable) component problems. The student will be able to construct a model of a complex system and understand the strengths and limitations of such a model system. The student will be able to articulate verbally the value and limitations of such a model.


Assessment (5 parts)

1) Problem sets, “notebook” and Journal Review (20%)

Problem sets. Each problem set is designed to enhance your understanding of core material by looking at simple and sometimes “classical” problems. Viewed collectively, one of the aims of the problem sets is also to illustrate how fluids problems are classified and thus simplified such that they may be solved. Most assigned problems are drawn from the textbook, which has an engineering emphasis. These problems establish some basic principles. Complementary geological problems will be assigned, in part, to indicate the generality of the concepts being addressed. 


Solutions to all textbook problems and most supplemental problems will be provided in class before your homework is due.  To receive full credit all problem sets must be self-graded with your own comments related to where you went wrong and why, what you did and why you did it.  No comments means no grade (i.e., 0 marks).  No late work is accepted.  Please read that twice. 


A format for each problem solved will be provided in class.  Please use this framework for each homework problem.  If you do not use this format, you will get zero marks. The point is to approach each problem in a systematic way every time.  This process will help you ultimately decide how you like to set up and solve problems.


Notebook. There is at least one reading assignment per week—most reading complements lecture material and is related to your problem sets. Active reading is a key to learning new material—and to developing your methods for how to learn methodically. This takes some discipline. Who am I kidding—A LOT of discipline. To this end, with each problem set you must also submit electronically 2-3 pages of hand-written notes that summarize what you have read about. 1 of these 3 pages must be a “concept map” that identifies and links core concepts. The concepts should involve self-serving cartoons that express physical concepts and words—no math. Page 2 could be a “concept map” for calculations that indicates how core concepts are identified and expressed mathematically (more about this in class). A third page is up to you. It can include concepts to which you need to return and additional information the importance of which is unclear—what goes on these 3 pages is up to you. You will return to these concept maps regularly and change them as you learn. By the end of the course your collection of concept maps and summary notes will reflect what you have learned and also how you have learned. It will be your fluid mechanical world according to you.


For an unimaginative picture of concept mapping:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concept_map

A little more interesting about the iterative process of “constructing” understanding with a concept map: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZJj6DwCqSU

For some theory about how and why they work:  https://cmap.ihmc.us/docs/theory-of-concept-maps


Journal Article Review. All graduate students are required to review a journal article of their choice after consultation with me.  Undergraduate students are encouraged to do this as well but are not required.  Your review must be that is ≤ 4 double-spaced pages (1500 words or less). Here are a few guidelines for constructing your succinct and precisely-written review:


  1. What is the real problem?  What question is the paper addressing?
  2. What is the analog problem?
  3. How is the problem posed mathematically?
  4. What is the strategy for solving the problem?
  5. What are the meaning and significance of the results?
  6. What are the strengths and limitations of the model (including the development of the model and the solution approach)?
  7. How might the model be realistically improved?


2) Quizzes (20%)

There will be 4 ~30 minute quizzes.  Quizzes will address basic concepts from lecture and the text. If you do your homework you will do fine on these quizzes. All material covered and assigned is open season. Students can bring 1 page (2 sides) of review notes plus one concept map to each quiz.  Like your concept maps, these notes must be handwritten.


3) Midterm Exam (15%). 

This will be a ~1.5 hour exam on an evening TBA in mid February.  The exam is open book and you may use your 3 one-page cheat sheets and 3 concept maps.  One problem from this exam will be done also as a group activity. This exam will be thorough but deliberately straightforward. To complete the exam in 90 minutes will be challenging: You must study.


If you do better individually on the problem that you will also do as a group, you retain your individual mark.


4) Final Exam (15%).

There will be a 2-hour take-home final exam due in April followed by a 1 hour in-class group effort to attack one problem. This exam will test not just whether you have completed your homework carefully but also the extent to which you have constructed understanding of this material. This exam will deliberately interrogate how you think.


5) Final Project (30%)

The term project accounts for a substantial part of your assessment and will include a ~2500-word paper and a short (10-15 minute) presentation. You will do this project in an assigned group of 2 people. Whereas exams, quizzes and problem sets are aimed at helping you build some familiarity and understanding of the vocabulary and core concepts of fluid mechanics, the project will allow you to explore in detail an actual problem in geological fluid mechanics of your choice. For undergraduate students, a critical literature review of a problem is sufficient. Graduate students, however, must also carry out a research project aimed at understanding some process or define a research project aimed at addressing a well-posed and unsolved problem. All students are encouraged to attempt to actually solve a theoretical/numerical or experimental problem. Equipment, facilities and/or computers may be available. More details about the format of the paper and the talk will be provided later.



Downloads and links

Supplemental Lecture Notes

Solutions to problems in the text


Tentative Lecture Outline