Collaborative Research Group on
Complex Geophysical Fluid Dynamics


Matthew Alford
Applied Physics Laboratory,
University of Washington
Neil Balmforth
Departments of Mathematics and
Earth & Ocean Science,
University of British Columbia
Jody Klymak
School of Earth & Ocean Sciences,
University of Victoria
Mark Jellinek
Department of Earth & Ocean Science,
University of British Columbia
Paul Milewski
Department of Mathematics,
University of Wisconsin
Dave Muraki
Department of Mathematics,
Simon Fraser University
Christian Schoof
Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences,
University of British Columbia
Bruce Sutherland
Department of Mathematics,
University of Alberta

The primary focus of the proposed CRG is the mathematical modelling of complex and classical geophysical fluid dynamics.

The dynamics of complex geophysical fluids is a key element in the mechanics of many geological phenomena such as volcanic eruptions, the slides of mud and rock, and snow avalanches. Understanding the behaviour of such fluids is important for identifying associated hazards to humans as well as for establishing economic resource potential. For example, choices for off-shore oil drilling sites are determined largely by the deposition of biological material carried by submarine avalanches, known as turbidites. The way in which such geological fluids arise and evolve is generally poorly understood both from the mathematical and physical perspective, and a comprehensive theoretical framework must draw from fundamental principles of fluid and solid mechanics.

Surface waves on the ocean pose natural hazard in extreme circumstances, as illustrated by the December 2004 tsunami and the possibility that rogue waves might sink ships and flood off-shore oil-drilling platforms. On small scales, recent numerical, asymptotic, and rigorous mathematical results have shown the existence of three-dimensional localised gravity-capillary waves in deep water. Similar to surface waves, internal waves move due to buoyancy forces but can propagate vertically within a fluid whose effective density decreases with height. These waves redistribute energy and momentum in the atmosphere and ocean, contributing to the circulation patterns and weather around the globe.

Both the problems of complex fluids and of waves demand an interdisciplinary approach that brings together experts from mathematics, physics and geophysics. In particular, in current studies of many classes of problems involving complex geological fluids and waves, the number, variety and complexity of observational data collected are rapidly increasing. Understanding of such diverse and rich data continually demands broad collaborations among geoscientists, experimental fluid dynamicists and theoreticians. In particular, the solution of many such problems now requires the development of new mathematical tools and algorithms ranging from computational methods and statistics to formal mathematics and asymptotics.

We plan to split up the period of the CRG into themes.

  • Complex Geophysical Fluids
  • Gravity currents in stratified fluid
  • Gravity wave dynamics

Weekend workshops:

Complex Geophysical Gravity Currents Workshop
March 2 - March 4, 2007 University of British Columbia, Vancouver

Plumes and Gravity Currents in Stratified Environments
October 5 - October 7, 2007, University of Alberta, Edmonton

Waves in Atmosphere and Ocean Workshop
April 25-26, 2008 Simon Fraser University, Vancouver

Is there an internal wave continuum in the ocean?
October 3-4, 2008 University of Washington, Seattle

Other activities:

CRG Retreat
May 10-11, 2008 Hume Hotel, Nelson

CRG Visitors:

Richard Craster (Imperial College), January 2007 - January 2008
Bud Homsy (UC Santa Barbara), September 2006 - December 2006
Tom Peacock (MIT), January 2008 - July 2008
Jun Zhang (NYU), December 2007
Gary Glatzmaier (UCSC), September 2008 - December 2008
Wojtek Dziembowski (Copernicus Astronomical Centre), August 2008 - September 2008
Jim McElwaine (Cambridge), February 2008
Nick Hill (Glasgow), January 2008
Xiaoyu Luo (Glasgow), January 2008

Photographs courtesy of the USGS
PIMS IAM Complex
Fluids Lab
Environmental and
Industrial Fluid Dynamics Laboratory
Univ. of Alberta
Geophysical Fluid Dynamics
Research Group
Univ. of Alberta
Department of
Department of
Earth & Ocean Science
Department of
Mathematical Sciences
Univ. of Alberta