Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Bercovici, David
Location Yale University
Primary Field Geophysics
Secondary Field Geology
 Election Citation
Bercovici made fundamental contributions to understanding the dynamics and evolution of Earth and terrestrial planet interiors. He developed the first self-consistent theory for concentrated deformation in the crust and mantle that generates plate tectonic boundaries, and developed the leading theory for transport and storage of water in Earth's mantle.
 Research Interests
One of David Bercovici's primary interests is the origin of plate tectonics on Earth, and whether we can expect it to occur on other planets. Plate tectonics governs geological activity, is the cause for most earthquakes, volcanoes and mountain building, and acts to stabilize Earth's climate over hundreds of millions of years. Bercovici's work, with various collaborators, concerns how the intricate mechanisms of deformation in rocks allows mantle convection - the process by which heat is released from the planet's interior - to express itself as plate tectonics at the surface. This research reaches down to the micron scale to provide theories for how mineral grains in deforming rocks evolve and how their behavior causes weakening of the cold, strong part of the mantle near the surface, i.e., the lithosphere. Such weakening likely causes plate tectonics, which involves large, strong plates separated by weak, rapidly deforming, narrow plate boundaries, where most seismic and volcanic activity occurs. In addition, Bercovici has worked on the paradox of how the Earth?s mantle can be geochemically well stirred but appear unmixed, for which he and colleagues proposed the highly cited mantle transition-zone water filter model. He and his collaborators have also developed models to address various enigmas in volcanology, such as why hotspot volcanoes form discrete and sometimes parallel island chains, and why volcanoes oscillate, with periods from seconds to days, prior to eruptions.

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