Geology and Geological Engineering

Dr. Timothy Masterlark
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Dr. Timothy Masterlark

Ph.D. (2000), University of Wisconsin
Professor and Mickelson Professorship
South Dakota School of Mines
Rapid City, SD 57701

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h-index: 21

Research synopsis

Fluid-solid coupling drives the dynamic systems of volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Magma-filled dikes propagate within active volcanoes. Megathrust earthquakes shift the seafloor and excite tsunami waves in the overlying ocean. These earthquakes also transfer stress to the surrounding region. Diffusive flow of pore fluids in the crust and viscous flow of the mantle relax these stresses, producing delayed aftershocks. We may extend these principles to energy production and geothermal systems. Hydrofracking propagates fluid-filled fractures that unlock hydrocarbons or supercritical steam. The waste fluids are disposed of via deep injection, from which stress and fluid pressure perturbations trigger seismicity.

My research team is pioneering methods to embed Abaqus-based Finite Element Models in nonlinear inverse analyses of geophysical information to quantify Earth's internal structures, materials, and deformation sources. Example targets span the globe (Aleutians, Cascadia, Equador, Chile, Iceland, Japan, Nepal, Papua New Guinnea) and include support from:

  • NSF Geophysics (2013-2017)
    FEM-based inverse methods to estimate nonlinear geometric source parameters of volcano deformation from geodetic data. Study sites are Okmok volcano, Alaska, and Tunguraha, Ecuador.

  • NASA ROSES ESI (2017-2018)
    Numerical impulse-response experiments for fluid magma migration and storage.

  • JAXA 4th ALOS Research Announcement for ALOS-2 (2013-2017)
    Interferometric analysis of JERS-1, ALOS, and ALOS-2 SAR data for Okmok Volcano to constrain dynamic models of magmatic processes.

  • JAXA 6th ALOS Research Announcement for ALOS-2 (2016-2018)
    Validating interpretations of ALOS-2 data for the 2015 M8.3 Chile earthquake: Calibration of co-seismic and post-seismic deformation and assessment of transient seismic hazard.
Latest update: July 2017
FEMs of mega-earthquakes: Viscoelastic relaxation translates to postseismic deformation and stress.

FEM of Tungurahua Volcano: This model simulates deformation caused by a pressurized dike embedded in the complex domain of an active volcano.

Hydrofracking simulations: Abaqus XFEM simulates the propagation of a fluid-filled fracture in a 2D domain.
contact: Dept. of Geology and Geological Engineering, 501 E. Saint Joseph St., SDSMT, Rapid City, SD 57701
phone: (605)394-2461 / fax: (605)394-6703 / email: