Virginia Tech® home

Scott King

Professor of Geophysics
Scott King 2
3056 Derring Hall

My research focuses on a quantitative understanding of plate tectonics, the fundamental paradigm of modern Earth science. Specifically, I study what happens when tectonic plates collide using numerical models, comparing the topography, gravity, and seismic velocity predicted from the calculations with observations from the Earth. The goal is to understand the connection between deformation at the Earth's surface, as manifest by plate motions, and heat flow from the interior of the Earth. These models push the limits of computing and my work also involves improving the computational methods for viscous flow calculations. Three-dimensional calculations of convection in the interior of the Earth and other planets require significantly more computational resources than will be available in the foreseeable future. I have worked on the evolution of the planet Mercury, specifically focusing on the pattern of compressive features and the time evolution of internal deformation. More recently I have been working on the thermal and volcanic evolution of Venus and Mars. I have also been selected as a guest investigator for the Dawn at Ceres Mission.


Ph.D. Geophysics, Caltech, 1990

B.A. (honors), Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, 1985

B.A., Applied Mathematics, University of Chicago, 1985.

  • Liu, S.,  King, S. D.,  Long, M. D.,  Benoit, M. H., &  Aragon, J. C., Receiver function analysis reveals lateral variations in temperature and water content in the mantle transition zone beneath eastern North America. Geophysical Research Letters,  50, e2022GL101965,  2023.  doi: 10.1029/2022GL101965
  • Euen, G. T., Liu, S., Gassmöller, R., Heister, T., and King, S. D., A comparison of 3-D spherical shell thermal convection results at low to moderate Rayleigh number using ASPECT (version 2.2.0) and CitcomS (version 3.3.1), Geoscientific Model Development, 16, 3221–3239, 2023. doi:10.5194/gmd-16-3221-2023
  • Irving, J. C.E., V. Lekič, C. Durán, M. Drilleau, D. Kim, A. Rivoldini, A. Khan, H. Samuel, D. Antonangeli, W. Bruce Banerdt, C. Beghein, E. Bozdag, S. Ceylan, C. Charalambous, John Clinton, P. Davis, R. Garcia, D. Giardini, A. Horleston, Q. Huang, K. J. Hurst, T. Kawamura, S. D. King, M. Knapmeyer, J. Li, P. Lognonné, R. Maguire, M. P. Panning, A.-C. Plesa, M. Schimmel, N. C. Schmerr, S. C. Stähler, E. Stutzmann, and Z. Xu, First observations of core-transiting seismic phases on Mars, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 120, 18, e2217090120, 2023. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2217090120
  • Grott, M., S. Piqueux, T. Spohn, J. Knollenberg, C. Krause, E. Marteau, T. L. Hudson , F. Forget, L. Lange, N. Müller, M. Golombek, S. Nagihara, P. Morgan, J. P. Murphy, M. Siegler, S. D. King, D. Banfield, S. E. Smrekar, and W. B. Banerdt, Seasonal variations of soil thermal conductivity at the InSight landing site, Geophysical Research Letters, 50, e2023GL102975, 2023. doi: 10.1029/2023GL102975
  • Stott, A. E., R. F. Garcia, A. Chédozeau, A. Spiga, N. Murdoch, B. Pinot, D. Mimoun, C. Charalambous, A. Horleston, S. D. King, T. Kawamura, N. Dahmen, S. Barkaoui, P. Lognonné, W. B. Banerdt, Machine learning and marsquakes: a tool to predict atmospheric-seismic noise for the NASA InSight mission, Geophysical Journal International, 233, 978-998, 2023. doi:10.1093/gji/ggac464
  • Elementary Geophysics, GEOS 3104, (spring term)
  • Mission to the Planets, GEOS 2014, (fall term)
  • Geodynamics, GEOS 5124, (fall term, odd years)
  • Planetary Surface Processes, GEOS 5134, (fall term, even years)
  • Fellow, Geological Society of America, 2018
  • Alexander von Humboldt Research Award November 2009
  • University Faculty Scholar, Purdue University July 2004-June 2007
  • Summer Faculty Research Fellow, Argonne National Laboratory June 1993-August 1993
  • Green Scholar, Scripps Institution of Oceanography October 1990-December 1991