Table of contents



The mantle's fabric p205


The analysis of mantle-derived rocks on increasingly smaller scales and advances in geodynamic modelling are providing new insights into the nature of mantle heterogeneity and magmatic processes.



Climate predictions and observations p206

Roger A. Pielke, Jr


The illusion of gender parity p207

Julia Heathcote


Expectations and gender imbalance p207

Kim Hannula




To blog or not to blog? p208

Gavin Schmidt


Scientists know much more about their field than is ever published in peer-reviewed journals. Blogs can be a good medium with which to disseminate this tacit knowledge.

Minority report p209

Myles Allen


Explaining science to journalists and the public on blogs is fast and efficient. But is it all just too good to be true? Can science survive Web 2.0?


Research Highlights


News and Views

Earthquakes: Tsunamigenic Middle Earth pp211 - 212

Roger Bilham


Violent uplift of western Crete in AD 365 generated a Mediterranean-wide tsunami that tossed boats onto house-tops in Alexandria, Egypt. Although a similar earthquake may not recur for 5,000 years, contiguous fault segments could rupture sooner.

See also: Article by Shaw et al.

Geomorphology: Muddying the waters p212

Alicia Newton


Subject Category: Geomorphology

Soil science: Scavenging for scrap metal pp213 - 214

Benjamin D. Duval & Bruce A. Hungate


All organisms require elements to live, grow and reproduce, but some of these are hard to find or take up. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria solve the problem by secreting compounds that allow them to acquire the metals they need.

See also: Letter by Bellenger et al.

Oceanography: Knock-on effect p214

Alicia Newton


Subject Category: Oceanography

Chemical geodynamics: Tracking mantle depletion pp215 - 216

Andreas Stracke


Extraction of the continental crust has left the Earth's mantle depleted in certain elements. Some rocks from the Arctic Ocean floor suggest that the extent of depletion and heterogeneity in the Earth's mantle may be greater than we thought.

Subject Category: Structural geology, tectonics and geodynamics

Atmospheric science: Predictable lightning paths? pp216 - 217

Earle R. Williams


Electrical discharges from thunderstorms include bolts-from-the-blue, blue jets and gigantic jets along with the more common intracloud and cloud-to-ground lightning. All these phenomena can be understood in a single framework.

Subject Category: Atmospheric science

See also: Letter by Krehbiel et al.

Palaeoclimate: Tree rings floating on ice cores pp218 - 219

Paula J. Reimer & Konrad A. Hughen


Because of difficulties in creating a radiocarbon calibration that covers the end of the last glaciation, defining the timing and duration of the Younger Dryas cold event has been a challenge. Linking related cosmogenic isotopes in tree rings and ice cores may provide new insights into abrupt climate changes.

Subject Category: Palaeoclimate and palaeoceanography

See also: Article by Muscheler et al.



Global and regional climate changes due to black carbon pp221 - 227

V. Ramanathan & G. Carmichael


Black carbon in soot is an efficient absorbing agent of solar irradiation that is preferentially emitted in the tropics and can form atmospheric brown clouds in mixture with other aerosols. These factors combine to make black carbon emissions the second most important contribution to anthropogenic climate warming, after carbon dioxide emissions.

Subject Categories: Atmospheric science | Climate science



Pattern of lobate scarps on Mercury's surface reproduced by a model of mantle convection pp229 - 232

Scott D. King


Numerical simulations suggest that lobate scarps on the surface of Mercury could have resulted from compressive stresses induced by convection within the planet's mantle, in addition to those generated by global contraction.

Subject Category: Planetary science

Upward electrical discharges from thunderstorms pp233 - 237

Paul R. Krehbiel, Jeremy A. Riousset, Victor P. Pasko, Ronald J. Thomas, William Rison, Mark A. Stanley & Harald E. Edens


Blue jets, gigantic jets, cloud-to-cloud discharges and cloud-to-ground lightning are all electrical discharges from thunderclouds. An analysis of numerical simulations and observations of these phenomena places them all in a unifying framework.

Subject Category: Atmospheric science

Spatial complexity of soil organic matter forms at nanometre scales pp238 - 242

Johannes Lehmann, Dawit Solomon, James Kinyangi, Lena Dathe, Sue Wirick & Chris Jacobsen


At nanometre scales, organic matter forms in soil are spatially, rather than chemically, complex, according to X-ray spectromicroscopy studies of thin sections of entire and intact free microaggregates. Organic matter forms detected at this spatial scale have no similarity to organic carbon forms of total soil.

Subject Category: Biogeochemistry

Uptake of molybdenum and vanadium by a nitrogen-fixing soil bacterium using siderophores pp243 - 246

J. P. Bellenger, T. Wichard, A. B. Kustka & A. M. L. Kraepiel


Biological availability of molybdenum and vanadium is facilitated by siderophores that are produced by cultures of the bacterium Azotobacter vinelandii during the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen. This suggests that the production of strong binding compounds may be a widespread strategy for metal acquisition by bacteria and implies that the availability of molybdenum and vanadium may be critical for the nitrogen cycle of terrestrial ecosystems.

Subject Categories: Biogeochemistry | Ecology

End-Permian ozone shield unaffected by oceanic hydrogen sulphide and methane releases pp247 - 252

Michael B. Harfoot, John A. Pyle & David J. Beerling


Destruction of the Earth's ozone shield due to the release of hydrogen sulphide and methane has been suggested as a cause of mass extinctions during periods of ocean anoxia over the past two billion years. This mechanism does not explain the end-Permian mass extinction, according to simulations with a two-dimensional atmospheric chemistry-transport model, which show that the ozone shield remains intact even with massive releases of hydrogen sulphide and methane.

Subject Categories: Atmospheric science | Palaeoclimate and palaeoceanography

Rupture across arc segment and plate boundaries in the 1 April 2007 Solomons earthquake pp253 - 257

Frederick W. Taylor, Richard W. Briggs, Cliff Frohlich, Abel Brown, Matt Hornbach, Alison K. Papabatu, Aron J. Meltzner & Douglas Billy


The largest earthquakes often cause rupture for hundreds of kilometres along a single subducting plate, and often begin or end at structural boundaries on the overriding plate. But the Solomons earthquake on 1 April 2007 ruptured across a triple junction, where the Australian and Woodlark plates subduct beneath the overriding Pacific plate.

Subject Categories: Seismology | Structural geology, tectonics and geodynamics

See also: related Backstory

Control of rift obliquity on the evolution and segmentation of the main Ethiopian rift pp258 - 262

Giacomo Corti


The main Ethiopian rift has evolved in two stages, with successive activation of differently oriented fault systems. Analogue modelling of the Earth's lithosphere demonstrates that such a rift evolution requires neither magma weakening nor a change in plate kinematics.

Subject Category: Structural geology, tectonics and geodynamics



Tree rings and ice cores reveal 14C calibration uncertainties during the Younger Dryas pp263 - 267

R. Muscheler, B. Kromer, S. Björck, A. Svensson, M. Friedrich, K. F. Kaiser & J. Southon


Attaching a 'floating' tree-ring chronology to ice core records that cover the abrupt Younger Dryas cold interval during the last glacial termination provides a better estimate of the onset and duration of the radiocarbon anomaly. The chronology suggests that marine records may be biased by changes in the concentration of radiocarbon in the ocean, which may affect the accuracy of a popular radiocarbon calibration program during this interval.

Subject Category: Palaeoclimate and palaeoceanography

See also: related Backstory

Eastern Mediterranean tectonics and tsunami hazard inferred from the AD 365 earthquake pp268 - 276

B. Shaw, N. N. Ambraseys, P. C. England, M. A. Floyd, G. J. Gorman, T. F. G. Higham, J. A. Jackson, J.-M. Nocquet, C. C. Pain & M. D. Piggott


In the year AD 365, an earthquake and tsunami destroyed much of the eastern Mediterranean coastal regions. The distribution of uplift at the time suggests that the earthquake occurred on a fault within the overriding plate at the subduction zone beneath Crete, and not on the subduction interface itself.

Subject Categories: Geomorphology | Structural geology, tectonics and geodynamics

See also: related Backstory



Islands across a fault p280


After a magnitude 8.1 earthquake caused a deadly tsunami in the Solomon Islands, Fred Taylor and colleagues rushed to the epicentral area to learn about rupture across a subducting triple junction.

Mediterranean island hopping pE7


Beth Shaw and colleagues found the corals they were sampling being used as wall decorations, and braved nudist beaches in full field gear to understand the AD 365 earthquake.

Late Glacial trees pE8


A group of botanists, geographers and physicists foraged through gravel pits, tunnel plots and lignite mines for very rare logs from the Late Glacial.


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