John C. Mutter

Professor
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Professor
School of International & Public Affairs
mutter 2010-08-29 at 7.20.53 AM.png
113 Seismology
61 Route 9W - PO Box 1000
Palisades
NY
10964-8000
US
Phone: 
(845) 365-8730
Fields of interest: 
Mid-ocean ridge and rift tectonics; natural disasters and sustainable development.

The face of the Earth is figured by continents and oceans whose present shape and positions are transients in the history of the planet. Earth is a dynamic engine of change. It is capable of tearing itself apart and has done so repeatedly throughout its history. The outer layers of the Earth are the solid thermal boundary layer of deep convective motions in the mantle and are primarily responsive to the deeper forces. Just how the Earth can tear itself apart, create new oceans by seafloor spreading, consume those oceans by subduction and continue that cycle over millions of years is an enduring quest for Earth scientists who study the solid Earth. How can we capture the true dymanics of the Earth? Seismic reflection methods enable one to "see" into the Earth but only as an instantaneous snapshot of "now". Earthquake studies monitor the present level of activity. What we are advancing toward are ways to capture the time evolution of active systems on mid-ocean ridges and rifting systems by making crude movies time lapse movies using reflection images taken at different times. These borrow old production techniques and re-form them for study of basic Earth processes.

Beyond this I am increasingly compelled to think about science and its role in the elevation of the world's poor. Science is the engine that drives economic progress in the developed world, but little science is practiced in poor countries and the benefits of our science have not come to the poor. How can science, which has brought so much to us, help elevate the poorest people on earth. With a third of the world's people living in poverty this has become an urgent question.

In my appointment at SIPA i am Director of Graduate Studies for the PhD in suatinable development.  The program began in 2004 and now has 15 graduates and 32 current students. 

I am particilalrly interested in the way that natural extremes that lead to disasters impact opportunities for development.  I work with a development economist Sonali Deraniyagala in research and teaching on this subject.  The results are surpisingly counterintuitive (one discussion is on this blog) and we are working on several publications.  We recently traveled to Myanmar to study the rolke of corruption in post-disater reconstruction. 

Some of my projects:

  • 3D/4D studies of mid-ocean ridge systems (see below)
  • Natural disaster and sustainable development.
  • Katrina deceased victims (see below)
  • Bamboo bikes for rural transportation in Africa (see below)
Education
List of degrees from highest to lowest:
Ph.D.
Columbia
1982
Master of Science
Sydney
1978
Bachelor of Science
Melbourne
1969
Honors & Awards: 
Fellow of the American Association for the Advam=ncement of Science
Alliance Visiting Professor at Ecole Polytechnique Spring 20103
Lamont/DEES Student List: 
Selected Publications: 
Seismic imaging in three dimensions on the East Pacific Rise, Mutter, J C; Carbotte, S M; Nedimovic, M; Canales, J P; Carton, H , EOS, Volume 90, Issue 42, p.374-375, (2009)

Preconditions of Disaster: Promonitions of Tragedy, Mutter, J. C. , Disasters:Recipes and Remedies, Volume 75, The New School New York, p.691-726, (2008)

Evidence for fault weakness and fluid flow within an active low-angle normal fault, Floyd, J. S.; Mutter, J. C.; Goodliffe, A. M.; Taylor, B. , Nature, Jun 14, Volume 411, Issue 6839, p.779-783, (2001)

Secure, Long-Term Sequestration of CO2 In Deep Saline Aquifers Associated With Oceanic and Continental Basaltic Rocks, Takahashi, T.; Goldberg, D.;Mutter, J. , SRI International Symposium "Deep Sea & CO2 2000", p.1415, (2000)

Seismic Images of Active Magma Systems beneath the East Pacific Rise between 17-Degrees-05' and 17-Degrees-35's, Mutter, J. C.; Carbotte, S. M.; Su, W. S.; Xu, L. Q.; Buhl, P.; Detrick, R. S.; Kent, G. M.; Orcutt, J. A.; Harding, A. J. , Science, Apr 21, Volume 268, Issue 5209, p.391-395, (1995)