Geothermal Gradients

Cameron Davidson
,
Carleton College
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This material was originally developed as part of the Carleton College Teaching Activity Collection
through its collaboration with the SERC Pedagogic Service.

Summary

In this problem set the students use two different equations to calculate a conductive geothermal gradient using a spreadsheet program like Excel. Once they have the geothermal gradient plotted, they are asked to experiment with and comment on the model by changing parameters (e.g. mantle heat flow, thermal conductivity). There is a mix of specific, fill in the blank questions and open-ended questions. This problem set helps develop quantitative problem solving skills using a spreadsheet as a tool, and forces students to think about thermal constraints during igneous and metamorphic processes.

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Context

Audience

This exercise is generally used in a required undergraduate petrology course for sophomore or junior level majors.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should be familiar with how to use Excel. They should also have a basic understanding of mantle heat flow, thermal conductivity, and geothermal gradients.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a stand alone activity.

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

This problem set helps develop quantitative problem solving skills using a spreadsheet as a tool, and forces students to think about thermal constraints during igneous and metamorphic processes.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

In this problem set the students use two different equations to calculate a conductive geothermal gradient using a spreadsheet program like Excel. Once they have the geothermal gradient plotted, they are asked to experiment with and comment on the model by changing parameters (e.g. mantle heat flow, thermal conductivity). There is a mix of specific, fill in the blank questions and open-ended questions. This problem set helps develop quantitative problem solving skills using a spreadsheet as a tool, and forces students to think about thermal constraints during igneous and metamorphic processes.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students have met the goals for this activity if they successfully complete the problem set problems.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

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