CSAS Lecture Series | The Growth of the Himalaya and the Tibetan Plateau and the Effect of High Terrain on the Indian Monsoon
Peter Molnar obtained a bachelor’s degree in Physics in 1965 from Oberlin College and Ph.D. in geology in 1970 from Columbia University, with a thesis in earthquake seismology. His initial work addressed aspects of plate tectonics. Following a 2-year post-doc at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and 4 months as an exchange scientist in the USSR studying earthquake prediction, he began an assistant professorship at MIT, where he turned his attention to the processes by which continents deform on a large scale and in particular how mountain ranges form. After 12 years of being dissatisfied with his teaching, he quit and returned to the life of a post-doc. In 2000, eager to change the direction of his research to include the study of how large-scale geodynamic processes have affected climate on geologic time scales, he moved to the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Colorado and became a fellow in the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES).
Peter Molnar’s research focuses largely on these two questions: (1) how large-scale geodynamics cause deformation of the Earth’s crust, including earthquakes and the building of mountain ranges, and (2) how shifting continents, emergence of islands, growth of mountains, etc. affect climate on geologic time scales. His work has included fieldwork in remote parts of the world, and numerical calculations of processes that obey rules of fluid mechanics, but he is incompetent, and unwelcome, in a laboratory. He teaches a graduate seminar in “Tectonics and Climate,” among other courses.
Peter Molnar, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado