UCL Earth Sciences


GEOL0057 Geodynamics & Global Tectonics

This module provides a thorough and rigorous approach to global tectonic processes and the geodynamics of Earth’s lithosphere and mantle. It includes practical work and oral presentations.

Coordinator: Dr Maxim Ballmer

Module details
TitleGeodynamics & Global Tectonics     
UG CodeGEOL0057
CoordinatorDr Maxim Ballmer
Other ContributorsDr Matthew Fox
Credit15 credits
Written Exam25% (Moodle quizzes)
Coursework50% (ten practicals/problem sheets)
Oral Presentation25%
Pre-RequisitesGEOL0004 Dynamic Earth, GEOL0012 Global Geophysics and GEOL0058 Matlab
Maths & Stats Content and RequirementBasic algebraic manipulation of equations and simple trigonometry plus basic use of calculus (math tutorials can be arranged) and differential equations.
Total Number of Hours of Student Work180 hours
Hours of Lectures/Seminars2 hours per week lectures
Hours of Practicals/Problem Classes2 hours per week practicals
Hours of TutorialsOptional maths tutorials
Days of Fieldwork0
Categorizing Student Performacne Levels

Topics will include:

  • Plate Tectonics Historical Perspective
  • Mid-Ocean Ridges
  • Subduction zones
  • Mountain Belts
  • Transform Regions
  • Plate Kinematics
  • Plate Dynamics
  • Stress and Strain
  • Flexure of the Lithosphere
  • Mechanism of Deformation at microscopic and macroscopic scales
  • Interior of the Earth
  • Gravity and Geoid
  • Heat Flow
  • Convective Flow (Fluid dynamics and mantle convection)
  • Earth's evolution 



The course seeks to present a global perspective of plate tectonics processes, including plate kinematics, the nature of plate boundaries and the forces that drive those processes. The goals are to understand the geological manifestations of tectonic processes at the surface and unify them with the processes in the interior that drive the tectonics.


Students will achieve a thorough understanding of plate boundaries, the unique geological and geophysical observations that characterize them. Along with such phenomenology the students will gain a clear picture of plate kinematics and the forces that drive such motions. Along with it, they will also gain an understanding of the energy balance in the Earth and how it relates to convective flow and plate tectonics, stress and strain and the relation to surface deformation and mantle dynamics. 

Students will be able to rotate plates on a sphere, analyze heat flow, gravity, seismic and geological data to understand tectonics and dynamics of the Earth. They will learn to master the necessary software to plot global observations for different map projections and write simple programs to solve geophysical and geological problems. 

The software and numerical skills (Unix, GMT, Matlab) and oral presentation skills are transferable to any area of academic and industrial work.