Jerry X. Mitrovica
Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science; co-Head Tutor
My interests involve numerical predictions and theoretical treatments of the Earth’s response to forcings with time scales that range from hours to billions of years. Our group focuses on two areas with direct application to climate. First, we’ve developed state-of-the-art models of sea-level change driven by ice age and modern ice mass changes and, on longer time scales, thermal convection in the Earth’s mantle. These models incorporate the gravitational, deformational and rotational signals effects on sea level, which lead to a strong geographic variability – that is, large departures from eustasy – in patterns of sea-level change. We have applied these models to develop the idea of “fingerprinting” modern records of sea-level change (e.g., tide gauges, satellite altimetry) to infer the sources of meltwater, and most recently we have estimated ice volumes during ice age warm periods (the MIS11 and MIS5e interglacials, the mid-Pliocene warm period) using geological records. A second area of activity involves modeling perturbations in both the amplitude and orientation of the Earth’s rotation axis (i.e., changes in the length-of-day and true polar wander) driven by ice-ocean mass transfer. These perturbations provide a sensitive, integrated measure of the polar ice sheet mass balance.