The focus of Peter Olson’s research is to understand the dynamics of Earth's interior, including both the mantle and the core. He is especially interested in how these two major parts of the Earth interact to produce plate tectonics, deep mantle plumes, and the geomagnetic field, and the way in which the Earth’s core was formed.
Olson’s approach is to combine theory, numerical models, and laboratory fluid dynamics models, and to use these to interpret global geophysical data pertaining to the deep interior of the Earth and other planets. One of his specialties is the dynamics of Earth's core, particularly the magnetohydrodynamic processes by which the geomagnetic field is generated in the fluid outer core, and modified by the solid inner core and the lower mantle.
More recently, Peter has begun a systematic investigation of the slow carbon cycle, the cycling of carbon through the components of the Earth system that controls our climate on geologic timescales. This work is being done in collaboration with colleagues in EPS and other U.S. institutions, with the help of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers here at Johns Hopkins.