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Documenting the development of a new 3D thermal convection model: Part 1 - Motivation and Design Principles

The nature of thermo-chemical convection in the Earth's mantle and it's impact upon everything from surface topography to the planet's thermal evolution is largely explored using sophisticated computer models. Only a handful of computer models currently in use by the geophysics community are capable of simulating mantle convection in a 3D spherical geometry. Some of these models are available freely to the public, while others are retained by researchers who've spent resources developing them. Two issues exist with this situation; the first is that the number of models in use is still very limited and not nearly as diverse as one would like. Since faith in results obtained from numerical models is, in the absence of direct observations, derived from the level of consensus between independent models, a diverse spectrum of models is highly desirable.

The second issue is that most, if not all of these models are old and as such do not utilize the full capability afforded by modern programming languages. This makes them cumbersome to handle and more importantly, difficult to enhance and extend to meet the evolving requirements of researchers. I am currently in the process of developing a new 3D spherical convection model from the ground-up. When completed, it will extend the list of active models in the geophysics community, and also distinguish itself from all the other models by incorporating new technologies. On the research side of things, it will enable me to not only gain new insights about convection within the earth, but to also contribute independently obtained results on topics already under investigation by the community.

In this talk, which is the first in a series of three talks focused upon the development of this model, I will talk about the motivation and the guiding principles behind this project. This will set the stage for a second talk which will provide an in-depth analysis of the numerical techniques employed within the model.