University of Connecticut

Events Calendar

Physics Colloquium

Friday, April 17, 2015
4:00pm – 5:00pm

Storrs Campus
Gant Science Complex, Room PB-38

Professor Anthony R. Philpotts, Geology and Geophysics University of Connecticut and University of Massachusetts, Amherst

“Connecticut’s Contribution to Global Cooling Through One of the World’s Largest Volcanic Eruptions”

One hundred and eighty five million years ago, the Earth experienced one of the largest eruptions in its history. Today, remnants of that eruption form prominent topographic features from as far north as the Bay of Fundy, through Connecticut and New Jersey, to as far south as Gettysburg (contributing to the outcome of the battle). This huge area was covered by up to 600 feet of basaltic lava that was erupted in a single event. Gases released during the eruption may have been responsible for one of the largest mass extinctions in the paleontological record. We will examine how phase equilibria and fluid mechanics can be used to determine where this molten material came from and how rapidly it erupted. We will then examine how such a large sheet of liquid on the surface of the Earth cooled through conduction and convection. During solidification of the sheet, a crystal mush formed that was denser than the residual liquid. The density contrast resulted in compaction of the crystal mush, with upward expulsion of the residual liquid. This residual liquid then split into immiscible fractions, with the less dense liquid floating and accumulating beneath the downward solidifying crust to crystallize as sheets of granite. This process of differentiation may be similar to that which in the early history of the Earth generated the granitic crust, which provided the appropriate chemistry for life as we know it on the planet.

Refreshments will be prior to the talk at 3:30 p.m. in the Gant Complex, Physics Library, Room P-103.


Dawn Rawlinson, 486-4916,

Physics Department (primary)

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