As a marine geologist, Anthony Watts uses the principles and techniques of geophysics to investigate the structure of the Earth’s ocean basins and how they evolve over geological time. Anthony is particularly interested in the physical properties of the Earth’s crust and upper mantle — known as the lithosphere — in the regions that sit directly beneath an ocean basin and at its edges.
He has made important contributions to our understanding of common mechanisms that shape the Earth’s crust — namely isostasy and the closely related phenomena of lithospheric flexure. During these processes, the lithosphere bends under the weight of an accumulated load such as sediment or a volcano and pushes downwards to displace the mantle.
Thickening or thinning of the Earth’s crust and mantle affect the height of the ocean floor, mean sea level and local gravity readings. Anthony showed how such bathymetric, geoid and gravity anomalies could be used to remotely estimate the age of underwater mountains, thus removing the need to analyse difficult-to-obtain rock samples from the bottom of the sea.
Interest and expertise
Earth and environmental sciences
Isostasy, Flexure of the lithosphere, Earth gravity field, Tectonics, Submarine geology, Oceanic crust and upper mantle structure, Sedimentary Basin Formation