Faculty and Instructors
Professor of Geophysics
4044 Derring Hall (0420)
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Ph.D., Geophysics, California Institute of Technology, 1990
B.A., Geophysical Sciences, The University of Chicago, 1985
My research focuses on the dynamics and evolution of the interior of the terrestrial planets. While motions in the interior of the Earth are almost imperceptible on human time scales, the process by which the Earth cools is the driving force behind most tectonic and volcanic activity. Mantle convection and plate motions are part of a linked system. I use the computer as my laboratory and computer models as tools for hypothesis testing. The observations constraining the dynamics of the Earth's interior come from seismology, mineral physics. geochemistry, geodesy, and geology. I have projects working on subduction zones, hotspots, and plate reorganizations. Because many of these problems require large computer calculations, other aspects of my research interests include improving the efficiency of computations and visualization of the results.
I am also interested in the other terrestrial planets. Mars is particularly intriguing because the origin and evolution of two of the largest features (Tharsis rise and the crustal dichotomy) are poorly understood. Mercury is interesting because even though it is quite small, there is (apparently) an active core dynamo. Venus is similar in size to Earth but has no plate tectonics.
Publications (last three years)
King, S. D., Mantle convection, the asthenosphere, and Earth’s thermal history, in Foulger, G. R., Lustrino, M., and King, S. D., eds., The Interdisciplinary Earth: A Volume in Honor of Don L. Anderson: Geological Society of America Special Paper 514 and American Geophysical Union Special Publication 71, 2015.
Adam, C., King, S. D., Vidal, V., Rabinowicz, M., Jalobeanu, A., Yoshida, M., Variation of the subsidence parameters, effective thermal conductivity, and mantle dynamics, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 426, 130–142, 2015.
Wada, I., and King, S. D., Dynamics of subducting slabs: Numerical modeling and constraints from seismology, geoid, topography, geochemistry, and petrology, In Treatise on Geophysics (Second Edition), edited by Gerald Schubert, Elsevier, Oxford, Volume 7, p. 339-391, 2015. doi:10.1016/B978-0-444-53802-4.00132-9.
King, S. D., D. J. Frost, and D. C. Rubie, Why cold slabs stagnate in the transition zone, Geology, 43, 231-234, 2015.
Anderson, D. L. and S. D. King, Driving the Earth Machine?, Science, 346, 1176-1177, 2014.
King S. D. and C. Adam, Hotspot swells revisited, Phys. Earth Planet. Int., 235, 66-83, 2014. (Invited Review Paper).
Samuel, H. and S. D. King, The combined effect of plate motions and small-scale convection on mantle stirring efficiency, Nature Geosciences, 7, 602-605, doi:10.1038/NGEO2208, 2014.
Cheung, K. and S. D. King, Geophysical evidence supports migration of Tharsis volcanism on Mars, J. Geophys. Res., 119, doi:10.1002/2014JE004632, 2014.
Sekhar, P., and S. D. King, 3D spherical models of Martian mantle convection constrained by melting history, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 388, 27-37, 2014.
Benoit, M., M. Long, and S. D. King, An anomalously thin transition zone beneath Bermuda and the origin of Bermuda volcanism, Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 14, doi:10.1002/ggge.20277, 2013.
Morra, G., Geller, R. J., Grilli, S. T., Karato, S.-I., King, S. D., Lee, S.-M., Tackley, P. J., Yuen, D. A., Growing Understanding of Subduction Dynamics Indicates Need to Rethink Seismic Hazards, EOS (Forum Article), 94, 125-126, 2013.