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Gregory A. Houseman

Gregory A. Houseman
Gregory A. Houseman

The 2015 Augustus Love Medal is awarded to Gregory A. Houseman for his outstanding contributions to large-scale continental geodynamics and mantle convection.

Gregory Houseman has made seminal contributions to geodynamics . His work is epitomised by his ability to strip a problem down to its simplest form and explain clearly the relations between the governing equations, their critical parameters and the natural phenomena. This has produced very significant and long-standing advances in these fields. His numerous fundamental contributions include showing how convective instabilities link convection and continental dynamics, producing thin viscous sheet models of deformation of continents and models of small-scale convection of the lithosphere, including the stability of layers of non-linear fluids and analytic analyses. He has also performed seismic experiments in the Carpathians and the Pannonian Basin to test predictions of density structure associated with lower lithosphere removal, came up with the first models of high vigour internal heating mantle convection in 3D demonstrating the planforms, and he has further demonstrated the relation between the width and length of mountain belts. In addition, Houseman has explained both coronae on Venus, and intra-orogenic basins on Earth, as resulting from lithospheric instabilities, developed methods to model seismic energy propagation, and has constrained the viscosity of lower crust in an elegant manner, using models of faulting in a visco-elastic medium.

Houseman’s studies relating convective instabilities and continental dynamics are worth exploring deeper. His work in this field demonstrated that when a continent is thickened as a result of plate convergence, convective instabilities can arise that remove the lower lithosphere. This increases the gravitational potential energy of the overlying continent and leads to a number of observed predictions. This provided a ‘deeper’ explanation for the changes in observables such as surface height, volcanism and style of deformation. This process is now recognised as a fundamental influence on geological activity.

His numerous fundamental and long-lasting contributions to first-order geodynamic problems make him a richly deserving recipient of the Augustus Love Medal.