Project Objectives

The TOPOMOD investigations are focused towards: (1) the characterization of geomorphic and geological processes at all scales by direct analysis of observables; (2) the quantification of possible spatial and temporal correlations of the deformation areas using indirect seismological, geochemical, geochronological data and radar interferometry; (3) the integration of collected data into physical, analytical, and multi-scale numerical and laboratory modelling, with the final aim to test several possible scenarios.

The association of a wide range of observations, experiments, and modelling at all scales is an essential feature of the TOPOMOD research. Observational and experimental constraints on the surface topography, crustal and mantle structure, along with the rate and style of deformation and the surface process are essential to interpret the origin and evolution of the surface of our planet. Multi-scale numerical and laboratory models allow to test the effect of the variations in thermal and density structure of the deep Earth, whereas studies on erosion processes constraints the surface process sculpting landforms. Model predictions are constrained by comparison with geological observations from the scale of the single fault structure to the scale of the overall plate at the tens to hundreds of km scales.

TOPOMOD will focus on three different processes that control the evolution of surface topography at different scales:

– at the scale of a single structure and within the earthquake cycle;

– at crustal scale from  internal layering deformation (orogen and rift) and volcanism, including competition with geomorphic surface process;

– at the global scale, by interaction the plates and the convecting mantle.

The integration of different time-length scales is a complex problem implying a coordinate effort and a strong background on a large number of disciplines. Indeed, to fully characterize and investigate the coupling between surface process and the deep mantle at different length and time scales, and, especially, to link observations and models at different scales, the research projects will closely link:

  • geological observations from the mm to the 1000-km scale of both mantle and plates deformation;
  • geomorphological constraints and models on surface processes;
  • geophysical analyses and rheological models to characterize the compositional evolution of the mantle and continental crust and lithosphere;
  • multi-scale laboratory and numerical models of the deformation of the coupled crust, lithosphere and convective mantle.

The research methods covered by the research teams and the associated partners involved in TOPOMOD will include: (1) the quantitative characterization of deformation and related chemical exchanges in geological structures at different scale, both in the field and in the lab; (2) coupled analog and numerical modelling of lithosphere and mantle deformation, surface processes, and fluid flow; (3) geodetic, geomorphological, geochemical and geophysical data acquisition on natural surface systems; (4) seismological and geomagnetic probing of mantle and lithosphere.

Summarizing, TOPOMOD will offer for the first time the possibility to address an outstanding problem in modern geosciences – “Which are the processes responsible for shaping and evolving the Earth surface, and at which spatial and temporal scales do they act and interact?”- from the widest range of perspectives, realizing a collaborative research and training project  It is expected that the synergy arising from this collaboration will advance research capabilities far beyond the present state and hence amplifies the international impact of European research and training in Earth Sciences.

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