Interface Dynamics in Geophysical Flows - EarthFlows

The dynamics of interface processes during flows on Earth, including the geosphere, the hydrosphere, the cryosphere, and the atmosphere, including the behavior of the complex interfaces separating ‘Fluid Earth’ from ‘Solid Earth’.

The goal for the EarthFlows research group is to provide fundamentally new understanding of the dynamics of fluid-solid interfaces for a number of important geophysical systems.

About EarthFlows

Geophysical flow processes provide first order controls on the evolution of the Earth’s crust and near-surface environments, including the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, the cryosphere and even the biosphere. The flow may include magmas, water and air, or chemically and physically more complex fluids such as hydrocarbons, CO2-water mixtures, and fluid-solid mixtures. Moreover, several rocks as well as ice, can behave both as solids or fluids, depending on the relevant time scales.

The solid Earth provides the boundary conditions for a variety of flow processes on all scales. These boundaries, the interfaces between the Earth and the Flows, can be highly complex and evolve in time as a result of interactions between the flows and the solid Earth. Occasionally, the solid and the fluid may even be mixed to form a complex multiphase 3D boundary (volume) between solid and fluid components, such as in avalanches, landslides and in many types of reactive fluid flows into porous rocks.

Despite the variety of such interfaces in natural systems, their dynamics can be adequately described with a very limited set of mathematical concepts and equations, enabling a focused approach to a large number of geophysical processes.

The Earth-Flow boundary also represents a rarely crossed scientific frontier between specialists in fluid dynamics and fluid flow processes and researchers focused on the solid materials of the Earth. The dynamics of the solid-fluid boundary is rarely studied in detail as this requires an interdisciplinary group of researchers, with expertise both in the dynamics of the fluid and the solid Earth, and with theoretical, numerical, observational and experimental expertise. Lacking insights into the dynamics of the solid-fluid boundaries seriously limits the understanding of a large range of geophysical flow processes.

Research themes

The research in EarthFlows are conducted in six interdisciplinary research themes:

The flow of magma in the Earth’s crust involves flowing viscous magma that interplays with host rock of visco-elasto-plastic rheology through the moving magma/host interface. In this project we aim to design a mechanical model of magma flow through the Earth’s crust.

Understanding fluid flow in porous media is relevant for a whole range of applications both within and outside the Earth Sciences. In this project we aim to ivenstigate the migration of reactive fluids in rocks that are under significant differential stress even before fluid migration starts.

Close to the Earth’s surface, the water that fills cracks and pore space in rocks and soil may experience freezing temperatures and cause fractures in the elements. The 'Frost driven fracturing' project is an experimental study in a simplified, model fracture with the goal to study the coupling between stress-build up and strain due to ice growth, water transport and fracture evolution.

Mass loss from glaciers represents the largest (65%) contribution to observed sea level rise. In addition to melting they lose mass in different dynamical processes such as calving of fast flowing glaciers. The aim of this project is to develop a novel thermo-dynamical model that describes the observed large spatio-temporal variability of fast glacier sliding, applying current theory of interface friction.

Flows in the Earth's interior are often heterogeneous, with different solid constituents surrounded by fluid or gas.


Turbulence occours at all kinds of interfaces, those which separate a fluid and a solid and those between fluids with different flow properties or compositions, most notably density. This is called boundary layers, and are common in diverse physical systems, from the atmosphere to the ocean and in pipe flows. The intention of this project is to examine aspects of a coupled interface system.

Advisors/External collaborators

  • Piotr Szymczak, Institute of Theoretical Physics, University of Warsaw
  • Joachim Mathiesen, The Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen


This cross-disciplinary research group includes participants from the Department of Geosciences, Department of Physics, and Department of Mathematics at the University of Oslo.

The reserach group is hosted by the Department of Geosciences.


EarthFlows is a strategic research initiative selected by the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the University of Oslo. The group has funding for five PhDs and one Postdoc during the period 2015 – 2019 from the University of Oslo.

In addition, our activity is supported from two ERC Advanced grants (‘DIME’ and ‘ICEMASS’) and several grants from the Norwegian Research Council. EarthFlows also receives support from UiO to the research section Physics of Geological Processes at the Department of Geosciences.



Published Dec. 11, 2015 11:07 AM - Last modified Apr. 24, 2017 2:24 PM