Climate and the Evolution of Mountains


Dr. Kip Hodges


It is well known that mountain ranges have an impact on weather patterns. For example, locally high topography leads to the development of microclimates. What is less obvious is the role that climate might play in the tectonic evolution of mountain ranges. New data from the Himalaya and Tibet suggest that there is a fundamental feedback relationship between the Asian monsoon climate and Earth's most dramatic example of continent-continent collision. In this talk, designed for general audiences, Hodges presents reviews of both the geology of the Himalaya and the meteorology of the Asian monsoons. Considering the Himalaya and Tibet as a dissipative system, in the non-equilibrium thermodynamic sense, he shows how monsoon-driven erosion along the Himalaya may serve the important function of enabling energy flow from the system to the surrounding environment. This dissipation arguably defines the basic structure of the modern Himalayan-Tibetan system.

Kip Hodges came to Arizona State University as Director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration in July of 2006 after 23 years on the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. at MIT in 1982 in the field of continental tectonics. His research on the evolution of mountain systems has taken him all over the world, but a special emphasis of his research has been the Himalaya and the Tibetan Plateau. From 1986-1988, he was part of the first collaboration between Chinese earth scientists and U.S. university earth sciences to study the geologic evolution of the Tibetan Plateau in southern Xizang, opening the door for many further collaborations between U.S. university researchers and their counterparts in the People's Republic. At MIT, Hodges served as Dean of Undergraduate Curriculum and as co-director of the Earth System Initiative, a program designed to enable collaborative studies of the earth system by scientists and engineers.