Careers in Geophysics
A career in geophysics involves applying the principles of physics to the earth sciences. In fact, geophysics is a major subfield of earth science along with geography, geology, and geodesy. Geodesy is the science that determines the precise size and shape of Earth, its motions in space, the movement of Earth’s crust and tide, and its gravitational field. A career in geodesy often overlaps with a geophysics career and certainly requires the study of geophysics.
A job in geophysics exploration and engineering might involve making measurements of elastic waves in Earth with a seismogram in order to find ore minerals and hydrocarbons. Geophysics jobs also include surveying for archaeologists and environmentalists. The most commonly used devices for this are magnetometers, electrical resistance meters, ground-penetrating radar, and electromagnetic conductivity meters.
There are geophysics jobs with the United States Geological Survey which employs 10, 000 scientists, technicians, and support staff. Its National Geomagnetism Program alone has 14 observatories that monitor the magnetic field of Earth. Earth’s magnetic field is constantly changing because of electric currents that move under ground, the Van Allen radiation belt, and solar wind. Geomagnetic storms can affect electric power grids, radio communication, satellites, and global-positioning systems, all of which can be tied back to geophysics careers.
There are also geophysics jobs in the atmospheric sciences of weather, atmospheric electricity, and the ionosphere. The study of weather, of course, included meteorology and climatology. Atmospheric electricity involves studying lightning, which occurs during thunderstorms, and the continual electrification in the air, which is best observed during fair weather. The ionosphere, the uppermost part of the atmosphere, is ionized by solar radiation and plays a large roll in atmospheric electricity.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center runs the Planetary Geodynamics Laboratory with geophysics job opportunities in departments titled Geomagnetism, Topography and Surface Change, Crustal Deformation, Planetary Geology and Geophysics, Orbital-Rotational Interactions, and Space Geodesy.
Jobs in geophysics can also be found in hydrology, physical oceanography, and glaciology. Hydrology is the study of the water cycle and water resources. Physical oceanography studies the temperature, salinity, density of oceans, as well as tides, currents, tsunamis, and surface waves. The other subfields of oceanography are labeled biological, chemical, and geological. Over 175 institutions worldwide, including the United States Geological Survey, participate in Global Land Ice Measurements from Space project.