Department of Earth, Environmental & Planetary Sciences

Earth History

Investigating how the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, surface, and interior have changed through time to understand fundamentally important climatic, tectonic, and biogeochemical changes.

We use field and geophysical observations, elemental and isotopic analyses, high-pressure experiments, and numerical models to investigate the evolution of the Earth. Research topics include: recent climate reconstruction, glacial-interglacial cycling, the rise of oxygen in the atmosphere, growth of the continents, and cooling of the Earth’s interior. Our community seeks to integrate observations and models of diverse phenomena across different timescales to understand how and why the Earth’s climate, life, and interior have interacted and varied over our planet’s history.


Earth History News

Recent Postdoctoral Research Fellow Kai-Xun Chen has published a new paper in Geophysical Research Letters, titled “Seismic evidence for a mid-lithospheric discontinuity in 155 million-year-old Pacific lithosphere. Consistent with now-frozen melt that was trapped in the young lithosphere close to the ridge.” The publication lays out evidence for a low velocity layer inside old oceanic lithosphere. Dr. Chen completed this research while he was a postdoctoral researcher in DEEPS, working with Prof. Don Forsyth and Prof. Karen Fischer.
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In a new paper published in Science Advances, Professor Donald Fisher, a Geosciences faculty member at Penn State and Brown alumnus, and DEEPS Chair Greg Hirth propose that rocks buried deep in ancient subduction zones could help scientists make better predictions of how these zones behave during the years between major earthquakes.
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