Robert P. Lowell

Research Professor

My primary interests are in mass, heat, and chemical transport in Earth's crust. I am particularly focused on magma-hydrothermal interactions in the oceanic crust at oceanic spreading centers, with secondary interest in volcano-hydrothermal processes in general in both terrestrial on planetary environments. My primary efforts are in research with occasional teaching in hydrothermal and mid-ocean ridge processes.


Ph.D. Geophysics, Oregon State University, 1972

M.S. Physics, Oregon State University, 1967

B.S.(Honors) Physics, Loyola University, Chicago, 1965

Current research focuses on numerical modeling of multiphase flow in mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal systems and the links between magma chamber evolution and hydrothermal transport. This work also involves reactive transport and its effects on the evolution of permeability in both basalt-hosted and ultramafic-hosted hydrothermal systems. My group is also involved in a large interdisciplinary study on the link between hydrothermal heat and mass transport and deep ocean circulation, with study focused on the Panama Basin in the equatorial Pacific. I have received continuous NSF supported funding for my research for more than 35 years.

Kannikha Kolandaivelu is a current Ph.D. student working on the Panama Basin Project. Kannikha recently completed her M.S. on numerical modeling the the East Pacific Rise 950N hydrothermal system. She is also working on Enhance Geothermal Systems as a side project.

Christyn Garber is an undergraduate student doing numerical modeling of hydrothermal systems on the Mid-Cayman spreading center. I frequently have undergraduate students in my group.

Dr. Pavithra Sekhar is a recent post-doc who is working on numerical modeling of the Rainbow hydrothermal system on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

Recent graduates include Dr. Aida Farough, who worked on the evolution of fracture permeability during serpentinization reactions and Dr. Shreya Singh, who performed numerical modeling of the Main Endeavour Field on the Juan de Fuca Ridge and the response of hydrothermal flow to perturbations. I have ongoing interactions with faculty at Oregon State, Monmouth University, University of Durham (UK) and Georgia Tech.

Book edited:

  • Lowell, R.P., J.S. Seewald, A. Metaxas, and M.R. Perfit, editors, (2008), Magma to Microbe: Modeling Hydrothermal Processes at Oceanic Spreading Centers, Geophys. Monogr. Ser., v. 178, 285 pp., American Geophys. Union, Washington, DC. 

Recent Publications:

  • Craft, K.L., G.W. Patterson, R.P. Lowell, and L.N. Germanovich (2016), The formation of shallow water sills on Europa, Icarus, doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2016.01.023.
  • Farough, A. D.E. Moore, D.A. Lockner, and R.P. Lowell (2015), Evolution of fracture permeability of ultramafic rocks undergoing serpentinization at hydrothermal conditions: An experimental study, Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 16, doi: 10.1002/2015GC005973.
  • Germanovich, L.N., R.S. Hurt, J.E. Smith, G. Genc, and R.P. Lowell (2015) Measuring fluid flow and heat output in seafloor hydrothermal environments, J. Geophys. Res, 120, 8031-8055, doi:10.1002/2015JB012245.
  • Choi, J. and R.P. Lowell (2015), The response of two-phase hydrothermal systems to changing magmatic heat input at mid-ocean ridges, Deep Sea Res II, 121, 17-30, doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2015.05.005.
  • Singh, S. and R.P. Lowell (2015), The thermal response of mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal systems to perturbations, Deep Sea Res. II, 121, 41-52, doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2015.05.008.
  • Lowell, R.P., J.L Houghton, A. Farough, K.L. Craft, B.I. Larson, and C.D. Miele (2015), Mathematical modeling of diffuse flow in seafloor hydrothermal systems: The potential extent of the subsurface biosphere at mid-ocean ridges, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 425, 145-153, doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2015.05.047.
  • Larson, B.I., J.L. Houghton, R.P. Lowell, A. Farough, and C.D. Miele (2015), Subsurface conditions in hydrothermal vents inferred from diffuse flow composition, and models of reaction and transport, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 424, 245-255, doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2015.05.033.
  • Lowell, R.P., K. Kolandaivelu, and P.A. Rona (2014), Hydrothermal activity, Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Science, Elsevier,
  • Singh, S., R.P. Lowell, and K.C. Lewis (2013), Numerical modeling of phase separation at the Main Endeavour Field, Juan de Fuca Ridge, Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 14, 4021-4034, doi:10.1002/ggge.20249.
  • Lowell, R.P., A. Farough, J. Hoover, and K.C. Cummings (2013), Characteristics of magma-driven hydrothermal systems at oceanic spreading centers, Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 14, 1756-1770, doi:10.1002/ggge.20109.
  • Han, L., R.P. Lowell, and K.C. Lewis (2013), Dynamics of two-phase hydrothermal systems at a surface pressure of 25 MPa, J. Geophys. Res., 118, 2635-2647, doi:10.1002/jgrb.50158.
  • Germanovich, L.N., G. Genc, R.P. Lowell, and P.A. Rona (2012), Deformation and surface uplift associated with serpentinization and mid-ocean ridges and subduction zones, J. Geophys. Res., 117, B07103, doi:10.1029/2012JB009372.
  • Craft, K.L. and R.P. Lowell (2012), Boundary layer models of hydrothermal circulation on Mars and its relationship to geomorphic features, J. Geophys. Res., 117, E05006, doi:10.1029/2012JE004049.
  • Lowell, R.P., A. Farough, L.N. Germanovich, L.B. Hebert, and R. Horne (2012), A vent-field scale model of the East Pacific Rise 9°50′ N magma-hydrothermal system, Oceanography, 25(1), 158-167,
  • Di Iorio, D., J. W. Lavelle, G. Xu, P.A. Rona, K. Bemis, L.N. Germanovich, R.P. Lowell, and G. Genc (2012), Bouyant hydrothermal plumes: Heat fluxes, quantifying the response to seismic and magmatic events, and their interaction with the ambient ocean, Oceanography, 25(1), 168-179,
  • Bemis, K., A. Farough, and R.P. Lowell (2012), Diffuse flow on and around hydrothermal vents at mid-oceanic ridges, Oceanography, 25, 182-191,
  • Steele-MacInnis, M.J., L. Han, R.P. Lowell, J.D. Rimstidt, R.J. Bodnar (2012), Quartz precipitation and fluid-inclusion characteristics in sub-seafloor hydrothermal systems associated with volcanogenic massive sulfide deposits, Cen. Eur. J. Geosci. doi:10.2478/s13533-011-0053-z
  • Steele-MacInnis, M. J., L. Han, R.P. Lowell, J.D. Rimstidt, and R.J. Bodnar (2012), The role of fluid phase immiscibility in quartz precipitation and dissolution in sub-seafloor hydrothermal systems, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 321-322, 139-151.
Bob Lowell