Professor David Gubbins


Research and Biography


Geomagnetism, theoretical seismology, subduction zones, inverse theory.


Did Physics at Cambridge and a PhD on 'Geomagnetic Dynamos', in the Department of Geodesy and Geophysics, Cambridge. His main research interest remains the origin of the Earth's magnetic field and PhD projects are offered this year in both observational and theoretical aspects of geomagnetism. A comprehensive dataset of magnetic observations from the last 400 years has been collected and resides on the computer system in the School; it is still being added to and provides the basis for several research studies. The research emphasis is now moving towards understanding long term behaviour of the magnetic field through dynamo models and interpretation of the paleomagnetic record.

Further interests are in seismology and all aspects of theoretical geophysics, both pure and applied.

After my PhD I spent 3 years in the USA (Boulder, Colorado; MIT; UCLA) before returning to Cambridge where I worked at the Department of Geodesy and Geophysics (later Earth Sciences). I moved to Leeds as Head of Geophysics in 1989 and played a major role in the expansion of the subject within the School.

I retired in 2009 to enjoy a few years of sailing. I remain research-active, spending summer months in Leeds. I spend the autumn at the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego, where I am a Research Associate, and a month in the winter at the University of Sydney, where I am a Visiting Professor in the Geosciences and Mathematics Departments. The rest of the time finds me sailing up and down the west coast of Mexico, when I can be difficult to contact.

PhD (1972) 'Geomagnetic Dynamos', University of Cambridge

MMaths (1969) Part III of Mathematics Tripos, finally! awarded MMaths 2010, University of Cambridge

BA (1968) Natural Sciences Tripos (Theoretical Physics), University of Cambridge

Fellow of the Royal Society (1996)

Honorary Member, European Geosciences Union (2010)

Fellow of the Institute of Physics (1996)

Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (1985)

My main research interest has always been the origin of the Earth's magnetic field, which has led me into numerous theoretical and data-oriented projects. I have also done seismology and a range of theoretical projects, particularly in inverse theory.

Current projects include:

Origin of the Earth's Magnetic field. I use the Leeds Dynamo Code to simulate geomagnetic behaviour over millions of years and compare with geomagnetic and paleomagnetic records. The paleomagnetic work is done in collaboration with Prof. Cathy Constable and student Maggie Avery at Scripps and is funded by the US National Science Foundation.

Power Source for the Earth's Dynamo. Using determinations of material properties of iron alloys from modern mineral physics calculations, we have recalculated the thermal history of the Earth's core. The Earth has had to cool faster than we thought. We have now moved on to studying the core-mantle boundary, its chemical equilibrium, and consequences for core and mantle evolution. Done in collaboration with Chris Davies (SEE) and Dario Alfe, Monica Pozzo (University College, London).

Crustal and Lithospheric Magnetisation. I developed a new approach to analysing the magnetisation of crust and lithosphere and applied it to global models of the Earth (S Masterton PhD thesis). I am now working on a Cartesian formulation for industrial applications, and refining the global model paying special attention to subduction zones, LIPPS in the oceans, and Antarctica. Done in collaboration with Prof David Ivers, Dietmar Mueller, and Simon Williams at University of Sydney.

Subduction of Hikurangi Plateau. Very high seismic velocities (>8.5 km/s) are recorded beneath most of the New Zealand landmass. This is attributed to a transformation of subducted material transformed to eclogite. This thin layer transmits high frequencies only, and by studying the spectra of regional events at the New Zealand National Network of Seismometers we are mapping out the structure. We hope to identify it with the subducted Hikurangi Plateau and fill in the missing piece of the jigsaw revealed by reconstructing the original Ontong-Java-Nui plateau. Done in collaboration with Martin Reyners in Wellington (Geo- and Nuclear Sciences) and funded by the Leverhulme Trust and NZ Marsden Foundation. Collaboration includes Leeds undergraduate and Masters students in geophysics working as interns over the summer, both in Leeds and in New Zealand.


<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>