The Floating Lithosphere - Cross Section of North America

Initial Publication Date: September 5, 2006 | Reviewed: November 1, 2012


In this module, students calculate the pressure at the depth of compensation along a cross section of North America. Students recreate spreadsheets shown in the Powerpoint module on their own with formulas that answer various pieces of the overall question. This module is the third in a set of three modules dealing with isostasy.

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Learning Goals

  • Calculate pressure at depth.
  • Relate depth of compensation to pressures in an isostatic system.
  • Examine the relationship between crustal density and seismic wave velocities.

Context for Use

This module was designed to be used in an undergraduate mathematical geology class where students are asked to look at geological questions mathematically and may spend more time on the math than on the geology.

Description and Teaching Materials

This module is one of several developed by Dr. Vacher. The module presentation can be found at The Floating Lithosphere

The Powerpoint file is considered to be the student version. There are also presenter's notes.

Teaching Notes and Tips

These modules were developed as essentially self-paced, take-home lab assignments. Students are supposed to work through the modules, slide by slide, building their own worksheets as they go along, taking note of instructions and prompts, hints, and queries.

Students must have access to computers equipped with a spreadsheet program such as Excel.


The easiest way to test student work on this module is to ask students to hand in a copy of their worksheets starting with a different set of input data. The module also ends with homework assignment questions.

References and Resources