Models of mountain evolution help us understand earthquakes and other natural hazards

David Whipp’s work in geodynamic modelling supports the development of a sustainable society.

What are your research topics? 

I study how mountains form and evolve over millions of years. In particular, I am interested in understanding the interactions of the plate tectonic movements that build mountains and the rivers and glaciers that work to shape and erode them. 

My research focuses mainly on places where mountains are actively forming today as a way to interpret evidence of ancient mountains such as those that once existed in parts of Finland. 

Where and how does the topic of your research have an impact?

An improved understanding of the fundamental processes that govern mountain evolution is important for helping to assess and mitigate natural hazards such as earthquakes and landslides. It also provides insight into regions where mineral deposits including battery and precious metals were deposited in the rocks beneath ancient mountain systems. 

Both of these topics are important in the development of a sustainable society. 

What is particularly inspiring in your field right now?

Among the exciting developments currently is the increase in supercomputing power that is enabling us to build three-dimensional numerical models at the scale where the interaction of individual faults in mountainous regions can be captured. 

These advances will allow us to better understand not only mountain evolution and associated natural hazards, but also how mountainous regions will respond to a changing global climate. 

In addition, researchers are advancing models linking the movements that occur in the Earth over seconds during earthquakes to those that simulate the growth of mountains over much longer timescales (thousands to millions of years). This provides insight into how earthquakes’ locations relate to fault motions predicted in models of long-term mountain growth. 


David Whipp is the professor of geodynamic modelling at the Faculty of Science.

Read about the other newly appointed professors.