In simple terms, geophysics can be defined as the study of the physics of the earth and its structure with the usage of mathematical and physical methods. This includes gaining an understanding of the microscopic properties of rocks and minerals to exploring information about global processes like climate change and natural calamities. Geophysics as a field of science has played a key role in increasing the knowledge people have in regard to the properties and physical processes of the planet. Paul Favret has an M.S. in Geology and Geophysics, summa cum laude, from the University of South Carolina.
Seismic data collection is a frequently used technique in geophysics and has pioneered the mapping of the earth. Seismic data tends to be obtained on the basis of principles same as in medical ultrasound. Typically, pressure waves are sent to the earth, which is then reflected back to the surface after encountering boundaries between the geological layers in the subsurface. Receivers present on the surface of the earth record the reflected ways, so that people can get an image of what the earth looks like underneath their feet.
Apart from seismic data collection, geophysicists also make use of a range of magnetic, electrical, gravimetric and electromagnetic methods in order to map and understand the structures of the earth. Even natural calamities like earthquakes help gain more knowledge about the structure of the planet. Once the structures in the subsurface are effectively mapped with imaging techniques, geophysicists can progress to describing the processes that shaped these structures with the assistance of mathematical and numerical models.
Today geophysical methods are commonly used for:
- Mapping large geological areas for the purpose of increasing knowledge about the structure of the earth
- Locating and recovering resources like groundwater, minerals and hydrocarbons
- Mapping potential CO2 deposits in the subsurface and monitoring CO2 injections in the subsurface
- Mapping the uppermost meters of the crust of the earth for tunnel construction, as well as potential locations for pipelines/cables on the ocean bottom floor and even windmills
- Evaluating the risks of geo-hazards like landslides, tsunamis and earthquakes
- Mapping the impact of global warming on the permafrost regions in the Arctic
Geophysicists may work in the energy sector like Paul Favret, or opt to join the mining industry. The opportunities for employment can be pretty dynamic for such professionals. The development and application of geophysical methods shall become even more relevant in the future. The risk of water shortages cropping up in various places on the earth implies that there is a need to find more groundwater aquifers. Conversely, climate change and global warming contribute to a growing risk of permafrost melting in Arctic regions, and geological methods are needed to map and monitor the melting process. Continuous population growth on the planet also leads to an elevating need for using geophysical techniques and processes to locate natural resources so that a sustainable economy can be maintained.