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To leverage the influx of observational constraints in digital format, I wrote SlabGenerator, an open source C/C++ program that builds an initial three-dimensional configuration of a subduction zone, spreading center, transform plate boundary, or any combination of plate boundary type (Jadamec et al., 2012), such as the Caribbean plate region shown in the image below (Jadamec, 2016). An example of the output of SlabGenerator, such as a geographically referenced 3D model mesh, plate configuration, and thermal structure, can be seen farther down in the movies (scroll down to 3rd movie, entitled "ALASKA SUBDUCTION ZONE: 3D Geometry and Thermal Structure "). The output from the SlabGenerator code can be then used as input to the finite-element mantle convection codes.

Working in immersive 3D VR environments can lead to a significant improvement in conceptual understanding when working with massive and spatially varying data, and in particular when one does not actually know the answer a priori. We become so accustomed to our physical surroundings, that as we grow older it is hard to conceptualize something we have never seen. But this is exactly what we are faced with in research and what students are faced with in learning, in particular when working with complex shapes, massive data fields, and nonlinear model behavior. Below are examples of 3D visualization in my research.


View is from inside the earth looking out. 3D visualization of earthquake hypocentral locations shows that earthquakes are unevenly distributed throughout the earth and concentrated at tectonic plate boundaries. This observations was important in defining Plate Tectonic Theory in the late 1960's and 1970's. Visualization by Jerico Revote, Margarete Jadamec, and Louis Moresi at the 3DALIVE visualization facility at Monash University with the ShowEarthModel software (Kreylos et al., 2006).


3D view of slabs in the Earth. Slab contours from (a) Gudmundsson and Sambridge (1998) in Blue, (b) Syracuse and Abers (2006) in red, and (c) Hayes et al. (2012) slab surfaces in white. Plate boundaries from Bird (2003) in yellow. Visualization by Ben Chang and Margarete Jadamec (Jadamec et al., 2016 In Prep) at University of Houston Geodynamics Research and Visualization Lab using ShowEarthModel software (Kreylos et al., 2006).

ALASKA SUBDUCTION ZONE: 3D Geometry and Thermal Structure

Isosurfaces and slices show the laterally variable upper plate thickness and outline the subducted Pacific plate and eastern Alaska slab edge (Jadamec and Billen, Nature 2010/JGR 2012; Jadamec et al., EPSL 2013; Haynie and Jadamec, In Review Tectonics 2016). Constructed with SubductionGenerator program written by Margarete Jadamec and visualized with 3DVisualizer (Kreylos et al., 2006) at the University of Houston Geodynamics Research and Visualization Lab. Data used to constrain structure listed in Jadamec and Billen (Nature, 2010; JGR 2012) and Jadamec et al., EPSL 2013.

I use High Performance Computing to model three-dimensional subduction zones with complex geometries based on observed benioff zone seismicity and with large viscosity variations (i.e., 10^24 Pa s in the slab to 10^18 Pa s occuring within a distance of 125 km) due to the non-linear (power law stress-dependent) viscosity (Jadamec et al., 2012, ACM XSEDE12).


At the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (with MSc advisor Wesley K. Wallace) I developed a survey technique to obtain quantitative data on the geometry of thrust-truncated km-scale anticlines that were spectacularly exposed. Because significant portions of the cliff-forming outcrops were inaccessible, I used a theodolite and reflectorless laser rangefinder to obtain 3D spatial coordinates of folded bedding horizons, axial hinges, and fault traces. The survey data combined with results from field mapping led to a better understanding of the progression from asymmetric folding to the thrust-truncation of anticline forelimbs. An example of field interpretations from my field work are overlain on a photo below taken by W. K. Wallace (cliff face has over 2000 feet of relief). This was helicopter-supported field work in remote regions of the northeastern Brooks Range in northern Alaska. Although, my PhD work and now postdoctoral research focus on geodynamic modeling to address processes at plate margins, I still enjoy doing field work and think it is important as a modeler to be grounded in observations, both from geology and geophysics.