What is Geophysics?
Being a former field in classical physics, geophysics has established itself as an independent science more than a hundred years ago. In the broadest sense, geophysics is a geoscience describing the earth and its surroundings by physical methods. It used to include meteorology and oceanography, which later became independent disciplines. Nowadays, geophysics therefore mainly focuses on the physics of the solid earth as well as the upper (conductive) atmosphere, with processes covering many dimensions in both space and time. Concering its study subjects, geophysics belongs to the geosciences like geology and meteorology, however regarding its way of scientific conduct, it belongs to physics.
Volcanism, earth quakes and continental drift are especially spectacular phenomena studied by geophysicists. When happens a volcanic eruption? How forms an earth quake? Why and where develop the valuable resources reservoirs? What are the main forces and processes behind these activities? How does the dynamics of the inner earth look like? How is the interior of the earth structured anyway? Which interactions are taking place between solid earth, ocean and atmosphere? All of these are topics, which have been key aspects of geophysical research and will do so in the future.
By studying the structure and dynamics of the earth' interior, geophysics massively contributes to the concept of "global plate tectonics". It addresses the development of the earth, the generation of oceanic and sedimentary basins, continents, mountains and the associated processes like earth quakes and volcanism. Furthermore, current environmental and climate topics are issued by geophysical methods.
Applied geophysics investigates the upper layers of the earth and fundamentally contributes to the search for resources and waste deposition. This makes it a viable economic factor. Together with other disciplines of geosciences, geophysics substantially contributes to medium and long term natural hazard management as well as resource development and environmental protection.
Since the deeper interior of the earth cannot be accessed by drilling, geophysicists apply indirect methods to get information about the deep underground and its processes. These techniques include the observation of temperature, gravity and magnetic fields and the examination of seismic waves due to earth quakes.
If physics conducts controlled and idealized laboratory experiments, nature dictates the experiments in geophysics. In addition, geophysical measuring expeditions often need to be done in hardly accessible and remote areas. Geophysicists observe the natural phenomenas or analyze and interpret the data measured in the field. Heavy computational simulation get more and more important to understand complex processes in the earth. Modeling, which means predicting observations by computing and model representation, can be difficult and extensive. Implementing models to an executable program is another important aspect of geophysical work. Hence, supercomputing is common in geophysics. It is used to process large quantities of observational data and calculate sophisticated models. Gained model results are verified against the observation, the variations between model and observation can help to improve modeling.
As the coast is nearby to Hamburg, local geophysics naturally focuses on the marine environment.