VT Geodynamics:

Scott King


I have far more scientific interests than I could ever possibly pursue.  I continue to work on subduction zones, the topic of my PhD thesis.  Ikuko Wada and I are merging equation of state models from the code Perple_X into a compressible convection code in order to study the deformation of subducting lithosphere in the transition zone.   I am currently reevaluating the buoyancy fluxes associated with hotspots calculated by Sleep (1990) using the most recent geoid and topography data.  Pavithra Sekhar and I are working on the evolution of Tharsis rise on Mars trying to explain the spatial and temporal distribution of volcanism on Mars: 1) volcanism occurs in two regions, Tharsis rise and Elysium mons; and 2) the majority of Tharsis rise formed soon after the dichotomy formed and yet the crater ages of lava flows suggest that there has been continued volcanic activity to the present. I am also interested in the thermal evolution of Mercury; mixing and small-scale convection (a project with Henri Samuel); the collision of India and Asia (a project with Lucy Flesch and Eric Calais); understanding the deep mantle through seismology, geodynamics, and electrical methods (joint projects with Ying Zhou and Chet Weiss); and crust and mantle structure beneath eastern North America (a project with Maureen Long, Maggie Benoit and Eric Kirby).  I’m also interested in convection in icy satellites and extrasolar planets but I have to draw the line somewhere.

I was a senior editor for Earth and Planetary Science Letters from 2000-2007, an associate editor for JGR Solid Earth from 1995-1997, and secretary for the Tectonophysics Section of the AGU from 2008-2010.  I chaired Joint Assembly program committee of the AGU from 2001-2004. As part of my thesis, I developed ConMan, a finite element program for 2D mantle convection.  I have been involved in various studies benchmarking numerical methods and have been actively involved in the Computational Infrastructure for Geodynamics project.


  1. 1.(top left) at CIG workshop on magma dynamics, Columbia University, NY, 2006

  2. 2.(right) Iceland, Mid-Atlantic Rift, 2004

  3. 3.(middle right) with my former PhD student Changyeol Lee (on my right in the picture) and his students from Chonnam National University, Gwangju, Korea

  4. 4.(lower right) distribution of downloads for the code ConMan from the CIG software repository.

About Me


  1. Professor of Geophysics, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, since September 2007

  1. PhD, Geophysics, California Institute of Technology, September 1990

  2. BA (Honors), Geology, University of Chicago, June 1985

  3. BA, Applied Mathematics, University of Chicago, June 1985

  1. Alexander von Humbolt Research Award

  2. University Faculty Scholar, Purdue University

  3. Summer Faculty Research Fellow, Argonne National Laboratory

  4. Green Scholar, Scripps Institution of Oceanography 


  1. [69] King SD DJ Frost, & DC Rubie, Why cold slabs stagnate in the transition zone, Science, submitted.

  2. [68] Sekhar P & SD King, Non-Newtonian convection modeling and the possibility of present day internal activity on Ceres, J. Geophys. Res. Planets, submitted.

  3. [67] Wada I & SD King, Mantle Downwellings and the Fate of Subducting Slabs: Constraints from Seismology, Geoid, Topography, Geochemistry, and Petrology, Treatise on Geophysics, second edition, in press, 2015.

  4. [66] King SD & C Adam, Hotspot swells revisited, Phys. Earth Planet. Int., in press, 2014. Invited Review Paper.

  5. [65] Samuel H & SD King, The combined effect of plate motions and small-scale convection on mantle stirring efficiency, Nature Geosciences, 7, 602-605, doi:10.1038/NGEO2208, 2014.

  6. [64] Cheung K & SD King, Geophysical evidence supports migration of Tharsis volcanism on Mars, J. Geophys. Res., 119, doi:10.1002/2014JE004632, 2014.

  7. [63] Sekhar P & SD King, 3D spherical models of Martian mantle convection constrained by melting history, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 388, 27-37, 2014.

  8. [62] Benoit M, M Long & SD King, An anomalously thin transition zone beneath Bermuda and the origin of Bermuda volcanism, Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 14, doi:10.1002/ggge.20277, 2013.

  9. [61] Morra G, RJ Geller ST Grilli, SI Karato, SD King, SM Lee, PJ Tackley, & DA Yuen, Growing Understanding of Subduction Dynamics Indicates Need to Rethink Seismic Hazards, EOS (Forum Article), 94, 125-126, 2013.

  10. [60] Lee, C & SD King, Dynamic buckling of subducting slabs reconciles geological observations, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 312, 360-370, 2011.  doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2011.10.033

  11. [59] Lowman, JP, SD King & SJ Trim, The influence of plate boundary motion on mantle planform and heat flux in viscously stratified convection models, J. Geophys. Res., 116, B12402, 2011. doi:10.1029/2011JB008362

  12. [58] King, SD, Eruptions above mantle shear, Nature Geoscience (News and Views), 4, 279-280, 2011.

  13. [57] Long, MD, MH Benoit, MC Chapman & SD King, Upper mantle anisotropy and transition zone thickness beneath southeastern North America and implications for mantle dynamics, Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 11, Q10012, 2010.  doi:10.1029/2010GC003247

  14. [56] Lee, C & SD King, Why are high Mg# andesites widespread in the western Aleutians?; A numerical model approach, Geology, 38, 583-587, 2010. doi:10.1130/G30714.1

  15. [55] King SD, C Lee, PE van Keken, W Leng, S Zhong, E Tan, M Gurnis, N Tosi, & MC Kameyama, A community benchmark for 2D Cartesian compressible convection in the Earth’s mantle, Geophys. J. Int., 180, 73-87, 2010. doi:10.1111/j.1365-246X.2009.04413.x

  16. [54] King, SD, On topography and geoid from 2D stagnant-lid convection calculations, Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 10, Q3002, 2009. doi:10.1029/2008GC002250

  17. [53] Lee, C & SD King, Effect of mantle compressibility on the thermal and flow structures of the subduction zones, Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 10, Q1006, 2009. doi:10.1029/2008GC002151

  18. [52] Van Keken, PE, C Currie, SD King, MD Behn, A Cagniocle, J He, RF Katz, S-C, Lin, EM Parmentier, M Spiegelman & K Wang, A community benchmark for subduction zone modeling, Phys. Earth. Planet. Int., 171, 187-197, 2008.

  19. [51] King, SD, Pattern of lobate scarps on Mercury’s surface reproduced by a model of mantle convection, Nature Geosci., 1, 229-232, 2008.

  20. [50]  King, SD, Slab Sliding Away, Nature (News & Views), 451, 899-900, 2008.

  21. [49] Redmond, HL & SD King, Parameterized thermal history calculations vs. full convection models: Applications to the thermal evolution of Mercury, Phys. Earth Planet. Int., 164, 221-231, 2007.

  22. [48] King, SD, Mantle downwellings and the fate of subducting slabs: Constraints from seismology, geoid, topography, geochemistry, and petrology, in Treatise on Geophysics, Volume 7, Mantle Dynamics, pp. 325-370, 2007.

  23. [47] King, SD & HL Redmond, The structure of thermal plumes and geophysical observations, in Foulger, GR & Jurdy, D Plates, Plumes & Planetary Processes, GSA Special Publication 430,103-120, 2007.

  24. [46] King, SD, Hotspots and edge-driven convection, Geology, 35, 223-226, 2007.

  25. [45] King,  SD,  North Atlantic topographic and geoid anomalies: The result of a narrow ocean basin and cratonic roots? in Foulger, GR, Natland, JH, Presnall, DC, & Anderson, DL, eds., Plates, Plumes, and Paradigms:  Geological Society of America Special Publication 388, 653-664, 2005.

  26. [44] Koglin Jr., DE, S Ghias, SD King, GT Jarvis & JP Lowman, Mantle convection with mobile plates: A benchmark study, Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 6, Q09003, doi:10.1029/2005GC000924, 2005.

  27. [43] King, SD, Archean cratons and mantle dynamics, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 234, 1-14, 2005.

  28. [42] Van Keken, PE & SD King, Thermal structure and dynamics of subduction zones: Insights from observations and modeling, Phys. Earth Planet. Int, 149, 1-6, 2005.

  29. [41] Redmond, HL & SD King, A numerical study of a mantle plume beneath the Tharis Rise: Reconciling dynamic uplift and lithospheric support models,  J. Geophys. Res., 109, E09008, 2004.

  30. [40] Lowman, JP, SD King, & CW Gable, Steady plumes in viscously stratified, vigorously convecting, 3D numerical mantle convection models with mobile plates, Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 5(1), 10.1029/2003GC000583, 2004.

  31. [39] Tackley, PJ & SD King, Testing the tracer ratio method for modeling active compositional fields in mantle convection simulations, Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 4(4), 10.1029/2001GC000214 , 2003.

  32. [38] Lowman, JP, SD King & CW Gable, The role of the heating mode of the mantle in periodic reorganizations of the plate velocity field, Geophys. J. Int., 152, 455-467, 2003.

  33. [37] Soofi, M & SD King, Post-Rift Deformation of the Midcontinent Rift Under Grenville Tectonism, Tectonophysics, 359/3-4, 209-223, 2002.

  34. [36] Soofi, M & SD King, Oblique convergence between India and Eurasia, J. Geophys. Res., 107, 10.1029/2001JB000636, 2002.

  35. [35] King, SD, JP Lowman, & CW Gable, Episodic tectonic plate reorganizations driven by mantle convection, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 203, 83-91, 2002.

  36. [34] King, S.D., Geoid and topography over subduction zones: The effect of phase transformations, J. Geophys. Res., 107, 10.1029/2000JB000141, 2002.

  37. [33] King, SD, Subduction: Observations and geodynamic models, Phys. Earth, Planet. Int., 127, 9-24, 2001.

  38. [32] Lowman, J.P., S.D. King, C.W. Gable, The influence of tectonic plates on mantle convection patterns, temperature and heat flow, Geophys. J. Int., 146, 619-637, 2001.

  39. [31] King, SD & J Ritsema, African hotspot volcanism: Small-scale convection in the upper mantle beneath cratons, Science, 290, 1137-1140, 2000.

  40. [30] Kim, H & SD King, The study of local time and longitude variability of the amplitude of the equatorial electrojet observed in POGO satellite data, Earth Planet. Space, 51, 373-381, 1999.

  41. [29] Soofi, M & SD King, A modified beam analysis effect of lateral forces on lithospheric flexure and its implicaitons for post-rift evolution of the Midcontinent Rift System, Tectonophysics, 306, 149-162, 1999.

  42. [28] King, SD & DL Anderson, Edge driven convection, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 160, 289-296, 1998.

  43. [27] Ita, JJ & SD King, The influence of thermodynamic formulation on simulations of subduction zone geometry and history, Geophys. Res. Lett., 125, 1463-1466, 1998.

  44. [26] Chen, J & SD King, The influence of temperature and depth dependent viscosity on geoid and topography profiles from models of mantle convection, Phys. Earth Planet. Int., 106, 75-91, 1998.

  45. [25] King, SD, Geoid and topographic swells over temperature-dependent thermal plumes in spherical-axisymmetric geometry, Geophys. Res. Lett., 24, 3093-3096, 1997.

  46. [24] van Keken, PE, SD King, H Schmeling, UR Christensen, D Neumeister & M-P Doin, A comparison of methods for the modeling of thermochemical convection, J. Geophys. Res., 102, 22,477-22,495, 1997.

  47. [23] Kellogg, LH & SD King, The effect of temperature dependent viscosity on the structure of new plumes in the mantle:  Results of a finite element model in a spherical, axisymmetric shell, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 148, 13-26, 1997.

  48. [22] King, SD, S Balachandar & JJ Ita, Using eigenfunctions of the two-point correlation function to study convection with multiple phase transformations, Geophys. Res. Lett., 24, 703-706, 1997.

  49. [21] King, SD & N Christensen, Physical properties of rocks.  In: Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences, E. Julius Dasch (ed.), MacMillan, New York, 1996.

  50. [20] King, SD & DL Anderson, An alternative mechanism of flood basalt formation, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 136, 269-279, 1995.

  51. [19] King, SD, Models of mantle viscosity.  In: Mineral Physics and Crystallography: Handbook of Physical Constants, AGU Reference Shelf 2, T.J. Ahrens (ed.), American Geophysical Union, Washington, DC, 227-236, 1995.

  52. [18] King, SD, The viscosity structure of the mantle.  In:  Reviews of Geophysics (Supplement) U.S. Quadrennial Report to the IUGG 1991-1994, 11-17, 1995.

  53. [17] King, SD, Numerical journey to the Earth’s interior, IEEE Journal of Comput. Sci. Eng., 2, 12-23, 1995.

  54. [16] King, SD, Radial models of mantle viscosity: Results from a genetic algorithm, Geophys. J. Int., 122, 725-734, 1995.

  55. [15] King, SD, Where in Earth do flood basalt come from?.  In: Plume 2, D.L. Anderson, S.R. Hart, and A.W. Hofmann (Convenors), Terra Nostra, 3/1995, 79-82, Alfred-Wegener-Stiftung, Bonn, 1995.

  56. [14] King, SD & JJ Ita, The effect of slab rheology on mass transport across a phase transition boundary, J. Geophys. Res., 100, 20,211-20,222, 1995.

  57. [13] King, SD & JJ Ita, Subduction and volatile recycling in Earth’s mantle.  In: Conference Proceedings No. 341: Volatiles in the Earth and Solar System, K.A. Farley (ed.), American Institute of Physics, New York, 33-44, 1995.

  58. [12] King, SD & BH Hager, Subducted slabs and the geoid: 1) Numerical calculations with temperature-dependent viscosity, J. Geophys. Res., 99, 19,843-19,852, 1994.

  59. [11] King, SD, Introduction to the Special Section on the Transition Zone, J. Geophys. Res., 99, 15,779-15,782, 1994.

  60. [10]  Ita, JJ & SD King, The sensitivity of convection with an endothermic phase change to the form of governing equations, initial conditions, aspect ratio, and equation of state, J. Geophys. Res., 99, 15,919-15,938, 1994.

  61. [9] Kellogg, LH & SD King, Effect of mantle plumes on the growth of D" by reaction between the core and the mantle, Geophys. Res. Lett., 20, 379-382, 1993.

  62. [8] King, SD, Seeing the mantle in the round, Nature (News and Views), 361, 688-689, 1993.

  63. [7] King, SD & G Masters, An inversion for radial viscosity structure using seismic tomography, Geophys. Res. Lett., 19, 1551-1554, 1992.

  64. [6] Staudigel, H & SD King, Ultrafast subduction: The key to slab recycling efficiency and mantle differentiation?, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 109, 517-530, 1992.

  65. [5] King, SD, CW Gable & S Weinstein, Models of convection driven tectonic plates:  A comparison of methods and results, Geophys. J. Int., 109, 481-487, 1992.

  66. [4] King, SD & BH Hager, The relationship between plate velocity and trench viscosity in Newtonian and power-law subduction calculations, Geophys. Res. Lett., 17, 2409-2412, 1990.

  67. [3] King, SD, A Raefsky & BH Hager, ConMan: Vectorizing a finite element code for incompressible two-dimensional convection in the Earth's mantle, Phys. Earth Planet. Int., 59, 195-208, 1990.

  68. [2] King, SD & BH Hager, Coupling of mantle temperature anomalies and the flow pattern in the core: Interpretation based on simple convection calculations, Phys. Earth Planet. Int., 58, 118-125, 1989.

  69. [1] MacAyeal, DR, S Shabtaie, CR Bentley & SD King, Formulation of ice shelf dynamic boundary conditions in terms of a coulomb rheology, J. Geophys. Res., 91, 8188-8191, 1986.

My work is supported by all of these sponsors