MacArthur Fellows Program

Michael Manga

Geophysicist | Class of 2005

Identifying within fluids, such as molten magma and subterranean water, clues for understanding basic geological forces and forecasting of seismic activity on earth and beyond.

University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, California
37 at time of award
Area of Focus
Earth Sciences

Michael Manga is a geophysicist who applies his background in fluid dynamics to a wide variety of fundamental questions in geology. The phenomena he explores range in scale from microscopic to planetary; he draws insights from field measurements, numerical simulations, laboratory experiments, and even astronomical observations. Manga began his research career by investigating the fluid dynamics of magma.  He showed that the effects of bubbles or gas pockets in a liquid can alter shearing rates as a function of fluid viscosity, surface tension between liquid and gas, bubble size, and number of bubbles. He and colleagues subsequently showed how crystal and bubble orientations preserved in volcanic rocks reflect the straining forces imposed on subterranean magma. More recently, Manga has used surface water flux to explore the redistribution of stress through the Earth's crust following an earthquake. Somewhat surprisingly, tiny deformation in water-saturated rock due to distant earthquakes can trigger local earthquakes, changes in groundwater flow, or shifts in underground magma. These results offer the possibility of better identification of regional seismic hazards and forecasting of seismic activity. He does not limit his investigations strictly to terrestrial matters, however; other studies consider the fluid dynamics of planetary evolution, exploring volcanism on Mars and tidal pressures on the ice sheet of Jupiter's moon, Europa. In the laboratory, he uses tanks of corn syrup to model the geophysical properties of these astronomical bodies. Through his coordinated fieldwork, experimentation, and simulation, Manga has opened new avenues for understanding a wide and ever-growing range of geological phenomena.

Michael Manga received a B.S. (1990) from McGill University, and an S.M. (1992) and a Ph.D. (1994) from Harvard University. He was a Miller Research Fellow (1994-96) at the University of California, Berkeley and an assistant professor at the University of Oregon (1996-2001) before assuming his current position as an associate professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

News About this Fellow
April 30, 2015
“Triggering of the largest Deccan eruptions by the Chicxulub impact”
The Geological Society of America
Michael Manga , 2005 MacArthur Fellow
February 26, 2015
“Study Provides New Understanding of Geyser Mechanics”
Michael Manga , 2005 MacArthur Fellow
View all news


Photos are owned by the MacArthur Foundation and licensed under a Creative Commons license: CC-BY.
Credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

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