In our research, we are trying to understand mantle and lithospheric processes. Understanding the behaviour of plate boundaries is one of our prime research targets. Our approach is to combine quantitative studies (in particular: numerical simulations) with geological and geophysical observations.

Video: Earthquake Cycle at Subduction Zones

Tectonophysics (or lithospheric geodynamics) concentrates on trying to understand mantle and lithospheric processes that shape our planet. Although formally part of geophysics, Tectonophysics is a field right at the interface between geophysics and geology, and geophysics and geodesy. Our approach commonly is to combine quantitative study (numerical model simulations) with geological, geodetic and geophysical observations.


Tectonophysics is mainly taught at the master’s level, but our group also contributes to smaller modules aimed at interested adults. If you are interested in studying Tectonophysics at Utrecht University, we recommend a bachelor’s degree in Earth Sciences with a minor in Physics. An alternative is that you first obtain a bachelor’s degree in Physics, preferentially with a minor in Geophysics. 


  • Tectonophysics
  • Dynamics of Earth's mantle
  • Dynamics of basins and orogens
  • Computational geophysics
  • System Earth 1 (in Dutch)
  • Excursion to Limburg and the Ardennes (in Dutch)
  • Module on programming and modelling (in Dutch)
  • Dynamics of sedimentary systems
  • HOVO Course ‘Geological history of the Mediterranean’ (in Dutch)
Key publications
  • Goes, S., Govers, R., & Vacher, P. (2000). Shallow mantle temperatures under Europe from P and S wave tomography. Journal of Geophysical Research - Solid Earth, 105(B5), 11153. https://doi.org/10.1029/1999JB900300
  • Govers, R., & Wortel, M. (2005). Lithosphere tearing at STEP faults: response to edges of subduction zones. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 236(1-2), 505–523. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2005.03.022
  • Lafemina, P., Dixon, T. H., Govers, R., Norabuena, E., Turner, H., Saballos, A., et al. (2009). Fore‐arc motion and Cocos Ridge collision in Central America. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems, 10(5), Q05S14. http://doi.org/10.1029/2008GC002181
  • Govers, R. (2009). Choking the Mediterranean to dehydration: The Messinian salinity crisis. Geology, 37(2), 167–170. http://doi.org/10.1130/G25141A.1
  • de la Vara, A., R. P. M. Topper, P. T. Meijer, and T. J. Kouwenhoven (2015), Water exchange through the Betic and Rifian corridors prior to the Messinian Salinity Crisis: A model study, Paleoceanography, 30, 548–557. https://doi.org/10.1002/2014PA002719
  • Topper, R. P. M., & P. Th Meijer. The precessional phase lag of Messinian gypsum deposition in Mediterranean marginal basins (2015). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 417: 6-16. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2014.10.025
  • Bartol, J., & Govers, R. (2014). A single cause for uplift of the Central and Eastern Anatolian plateau? Tectonophysics, 637, 116–136. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.tecto.2014.10.002
  • Nijholt, N., & Govers, R. (2015). The role of passive margins on the evolution of Subduction-Transform Edge Propagators (STEPs). Journal of Geophysical Research - Solid Earth, 1–28. http://doi.org/10.1002/(ISSN)2169-9356
  • Govers, R., Furlong, K. P., van de Wiel, L., Herman, M. W., & Broerse, T. (2018). The Geodetic Signature of the Earthquake Cycle at Subduction Zones: Model Constraints on the Deep Processes. Reviews of Geophysics, 85(7), 457–44. http://doi.org/10.1002/2017RG000586


GFLEX is a finite difference code for Earth scientific applications. It solves a flexure equation for small vertical deformations of a thin (Kirchhoff) plate, linear isotropic elasticity, and plane stress conditions. Plate thickness can vary within the two-dimensional Cartesian map domain. DOWNLOAD

The current version (1.1) has a number of limitations:

  • Clamped boundary conditions on all sides only
  • Uniform values only for restoring pressure, infilling loads, in-plane tractions, and elastic moduli
  • No faults

Please reference the following paper in publications that used the code: 
Govers, R., Meijer, P.Th., and Krijgsman, W., Regional isostatic response to Messinian salinity crisis events, Tectonophysics, doi: 10.1016/j.tecto.2008.09.026, 2008 PDF.
This paper contains information about the equations and other relevant issues related to the code.

Licence to Use 
Copyright (C) 2008 Rob Govers, Utrecht University, The Netherlands. The distribution includes a file "COPYING" with GPL copy licence information.  

A gzipped tarfile of the current GFLEX version (1.1) can be downloaded by clicking here. This code was extensively tested on a GNU/Linux platform.  

Messinian topo/bathymetry of the Mediterranean

Files are in GMT/netCDF or ASCII format; grd file - ascii file - image

Please reference the following paper in publications that use the grid:
Govers, R., Meijer, P.Th., and Krijgsman, W., Regional isostatic response to Messinian salinity crisis events, Tectonophysics, doi: 10.1016/j.tecto.2008.09.026, 2008 PDF.