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Marc Parmentier

Geological Sciences
Phone: +1 401 863 1700
Phone 2: +1 401 863 3339

My research centers on understanding the roles of melting, melt migration, and mantle dynamics on the long-term evolution of the interior of the Earth and other planetary bodies. This includes convective motions that give rise to largest scales of mantle overturn, that we associate with plate tectonics on the Earth, as well as smaller scales of motion associated with intraplate and plate boundary volcanism. An understanding of the physics and scaling laws governing these processes allows predictions of planetary behavior which can be compared with available observations.


I received my B.S. in Engineering and Mathematics at West Virginia University in 1967. I went on to get my M.S. in Engineering (1969) and my Ph.D. in Geophysics (1975), both from Cornell University. After completing research fellowship at Oxford University, I came to Brown University in 1977 as an Assistant Professor of Research. I teach courses related to continuum physics of the earth and planets, the physics of planetary evolution, and the application of numerical methods in geodynamics. During his time at Brown, I have held research appointments at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC/San Diego. In 1990, I became full professor in the Department of Geological Sciences.


Fluid-like deformations of the solid Earth and planets on geological time scales occurs due to thermally-activated creep driven by buoyancy forces that arise both from differences in temperature as well as variations in chemical composition. Differences in composition arise from melting and the extraction of melt. Even with the high viscosity of the solid mantle, convective motions are fast compared to the time for heat to be conducted over appreciable distances. These rapid, highly time-dependent or turbulent convective motions occur over a range of spatial and temporal scales. Convective motions give rise to the large scale mantle overturn that we associate with plate tectonics as well as smaller scales of motion associated with intraplate and plate boundary volcanism. Theoretical models and numerical experiments developed in the context of geological and geophysical observations allow an assessment of the role of these processes in the evolution of the Earth and planets.


Tau Beta Pi 1968
National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow 1967-68
Ford Foundation Fellow 1967-68
Green Fellow 1985
American Geophysical Union Fellow elected 1995


American Geophysical Union


GEOL 1620: Continuum Physics of the Solid Earth

GEOL 1810: Physics of Planetary Evolution

GEOL 1950: Computational Approaches to Modeling and Quantitative Analysis in the Natural Sciences

GEOL 2520: Numerical Geodynamics

GEOL 2920: Physics of Melt Migration

GEOL 2920: Rheological Boundaries in the Earth (w/Greg Hirth)

Current Graduate Students:
Conroy Baltzell (co-advising with Prof. Yan Liang)
Christopher Havlin
Takamasa Kanaya (co-advising with Prof. Greg Hirth)
Dan Paulsen (joint with Applied Mathematics)
Yin Ran (co-advising with Profs. Hirth and Liang)

Examples of research with PhD students:

M. T. Zuber: Unstable deformation in layered media: application to planetary lithospheres, Ph.D. 1986. Currently Deparment Head and Professor, Department of Earth Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, MIT.

J. Phipps Morgan: The dynamics of midocean ridges, Ph.D. 1986. Currently Professor, Deparment of Geological Sciences, Cornell University.

Jian Lin: Surface topography due to convection in a variable viscosity fluid, M.Sc.1984; Mechanisms of non-elastic extension of lithospheres, Ph.D. 1988. Currently Senior Research Scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

David Sparks: Mantle flow and the generation and segmentation of magma beneath spreading centers, Ph.D. 1992. Currently Associate Professor, Texas A&M University.

Kopal Jha: Mantle convection beneath ridges and rifts, Ph.D. 1996.

Chad Hall: The physics of deformation processes in mantle dynamics â€" Ph.D. 2001. Currently Research Associate, Department of Geological Sciences, CalTech.

Daynathie Weeraratne: Behavior of asthenosphere beneath oceans and continents - Ph.D. 2004. Currently Assistant Professor, California State Northridge.

Sarah Zaranak: Convective instability and planetary evolution - Ph.D. 2005. Currently Applications Engineer, Mathworks.

Amandine Cagnioncle - Ph.D. 2009

Funded Research

Examples of Recently Funded Research Projects:
Oceanic Intraplate Volcanism: Mechanism and Observations; NSF Ocean Sciences.

Petrology and Physics of Magma Ocean Crystallization (Linda Elkins-Tanton, Co-PI); NASA Mars Fundamental Research Program.

Developing a Multiscale Model for Melting and Melt Migration in the Mantle; Collaborations in Mathematical Geosciences (Yan Liang, Co-PI); NSF Geophysics Program.

Upgrade of Brown computing facilities for integrated study of mantle structure, dynamics and melting; NSF EAR Instrumentation and Facilities.

Physics of Planetary Evolution; NASA Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program.

Melting, melt migration and volcanism at convergent plate boundaries: NSF Ocean Sciences, Marine Geology and Geophysics Program.

Web Links

Curriculum Vitae

Download Marc Parmentier's Curriculum Vitae in PDF Format