University of California, Riverside

Faculty Profile System

Wilfred A. Elders

Wilfred A. Elders

Professor of Geology Emeritus/Research Geologist

Department of Earth Sciences
Geology 438
(951) 827-3439

Research Areas

  • Geothermal resource investigations; water-rock reactions in hydrothermal systems; tectonics of Salton Trough; the Colorado River Delta and the Grand Canyon


Ph.D., King's College, University of Durham, England, 1961


From 1970 until his retirement Dr. Elders directed a Geothermal Resource Program at UCR. He has lectured at International Geothermal Institutes in New Zealand and Japan and served as Chairman of the Education Committee of the Geothermal Resources Council (GRC) of the U.S.A. for several years. From 1983-1988 he was Chief Scientist of the Salton Sea Scientific Drilling Project, that drilled a 3.1 km deep borehole that reached temperatures of 360oC and produced brines containing &gt;25 wt% of total dissolved solids. His current interests range from research drilling, to comparisons between the geological history of the Grand Canyon and the Delta of the Colorado River, and to combating the attempts of Christian fundamentalists to promote the teaching of "creation science" and "intelligent design" in public schools. <br /><br />In 2000 he retired from laboratory science and teaching to devote full time to being one of two Co-chief Scientist of the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) a long term, international, drilling project. The IDDP is aimed at bringing about the next phase in the development of geothermal resources worldwide, by exploring for deep, supercritical, geothermal fluids. The resultant superheated steam produced should have a power output ten times that of a conventional well producing subcritical steam. In 2005 the IDDP drilled a well to a depth of 3 km on the Reykjanes Peninsula where the Mid-Atlantic ridge emerges on land in Iceland. In April 2006, it was decided to move operations to Krafla, a central volcano in Northern Iceland, as the site for the first deep IDDP borehole. This location is within a volcanic caldera, with higher temperature gradients and more recent volcanic activity than Reykjanes. The IDDP plans to rotary drill and spot core an exploratory borehole to 3.5 km depth, and then deepen it to ~ 4.5 km, using continuous wireline coring for scientific purposes, and then attempt a flow test from the deepest portion of the well. This borehole will be completed in 2008 at a cost of more than 20 million USD, funded by industrial partners and the Icelandic government. A 4.5 million USD research budget is being funded jointly by the US National Science Foundation and the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program. In addition to exploring for new sources of alternative energy, this project will provide the first opportunity worldwide for scientists to investigate the deep, high temperature reaction zone of a volcano situated on a mid-ocean ridge. This drill site is ideally situated for a broad array of scientific studies involving water/rock reactions at extremely high temperatures in an active setting. Active processes in such deep high-temperature reaction zones that control fluid compositions on mid-ocean ridges have never before been available for comprehensive direct study and sampling. See


Research drilling:

  • Elders, W.A., Fridleifsson, G.O., and Saito, S. 2001, "The Iceland Deep Drilling Project: A Search for Supercritical Fluid" Geothermal Resources Council, Transactions, Vol. 25, p. 297-300.
  • Elders, W.A., Fridleifsson, G.O., and Saito, 2003, "The Iceland Deep Drilling Project: Its Global Significance." Proceedings International Geothermal Conference IGC-2003, Reykjavik 14-17, Sept.2003 Session 6, 1-7.
  • Elders, W.A. and Fridleifsson G.O., 2005, "The Iceland Deep Drilling Project - scientific opportunities." Proceedings of the World Geothermal Congress, Antalya, Turkey, 24-29 April 2005, paper 0626, 6p.
  • Elders, W.A. and Dallimore, S., 2006, "Natural Resources", In Harms, U. and Koeberl, C. (Eds.) "Continental Scientific Drilling: A Decade of Progress and Challenges for the Future". Chapter 8, 27p. Springer Verlag, Berlin & New York. (Book Chapter, in press).
  • Fridleifsson, G.O. and Elders, W.A., 2003, "The Feasibility of Utilizing Geothermal Energy from Supercritical Reservoirs in Iceland: A Progress Report of the Iceland Deep Drilling Project." Transactions of the Geothermal Resources Council, 10 p.
  • Fridleifsson, G.O. and Elders, W.A, 2005, "The Iceland Deep Drilling Project: a Search for Deep Unconventional Geothermal Resources." Geothermics, Vol. 34, p.269-285.

Colorado River Delta:

  • Elders, W.A., Martín-Barajas, A., and Pacheco-Romero, M., 2003. "Evolution of Sedimentary Environments on the Delta of the Colorado River.", Geological Society of America, 2003 Abstracts with Programs, Cordilleran Section, Vol. 35, Number 4, p.27, Paper 16-10.
  • Hunt, A.G. and Elders, W.A., 2004. "Climate Change and the Evolution of Grand Canyon and the Colorado River Delta." Chapter 29, pp. 185-190, in Young, R.A. (editor), 2004, "Colorado River; Origin and Evolution", Memoir No. 12, Grand Canyon Association, Grand Canyon , AZ.
  • Pacheco M. R., Martin-Barajas, A., Elders, W.A., Espinosa-Cardeña, J.M., Helenes, J. and Segura, A., 2006, "Stratigraphy and Structure of the Altar Basin of NW Sonora: Implications for the History of the Colorado River and the Salton Trough." Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Geologicas, vol. 23, b no. 1, p 1-22.

Evolution and Creation Science:

  • Elders, W.A., 1998, "Bibliolatry in the Grand Canyon". Reports of the National Center for Science Education, Vol. 18, pp.8-15.
  • Elders, W.A., 1999, "Creationist scholarship in the Grand Canyon". Reports of the National Center for Science Education, Vol. 19, pp.15-19.
  • Elders, W.A., 2003. "Different Views of the Grand Canyon." EOS, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, Vol. 84. No. 38, 23 Sept. 2003, pp. 384-385.
  • Elders, W.A., 2006. "Geology and the Anti-evolutionists: 4.5 thousand years or 4.4 billion?". American Association for the Advancement of Science, Annual Meeting Program, Feb. 2006 St. Louis, Mo.

More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

Department of Earth Sciences
Geology Building

Tel: (951) 827-3434
Fax: (951) 827-4324