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Volume 7 Issue 1, January 2014

Dark streaks that appear on the surface of Mars during warm seasons have been observed at the mid-latitudes and tentatively attributed to the flow of briny water. Imagery from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter over multiple Mars years suggests that these seasonally active features are also present in equatorial regions, where liquid surface water is not expected. The image shows dark, narrow flows called recurring slope lineae that are more than 1 km long in this portion of Eos and Capri Chasma in eastern Valles Marineris, Mars. The image is in enhanced infrared-shifted colour, and downhill is to the right or the bottom.

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  • In our trial of a double-blind procedure for peer review, authors' awareness of their peer-review choices in the early stages of writing a paper is key for their decision to opt in or out.



  • The deaths of 11 rescue workers that set out to help a research boat in stormy Arctic waters highlights the perils of collecting data at sea.

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In the press

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Research Highlights

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News & Views

  • Large quantities of methane lie trapped beneath the floor of the Arctic Ocean. Measurements in the southern Laptev Sea around the Lena River delta suggest that bubbles and storms facilitate the flux of some of this submarine methane to the atmosphere.

    • Peter Brewer


    News & Views
  • The Archaean Earth was much hotter than today. Numerical modelling shows that the base of thickened crust that formed at the time would have been so dense that it dripped back into the mantle.

    • Claude Herzberg
    News & Views
  • Liquid water may lurk beneath the frozen surfaces of Jupiter's moon Europa and other icy worlds. Extending ocean science beyond Earth, planetary oceanographers are linking Europa's ocean dynamics to its enigmatic surface geology.

    • Jason Goodman
    News & Views
  • The metal content of magmas erupted at subduction zone arcs is thought to be derived from the mantle. A correlation between crustal thickness and copper content in arc magmas worldwide, however, reveals an important role for the crust in the upper plate.

    • Cin-Ty A. Lee
    News & Views
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  • In many planetary atmospheres, including that of Earth, the base of the stratosphere—the tropopause—occurs at an atmospheric pressure of 0.1 bar. A physically based model demonstrates that the pressure-dependence of transparency to infrared radiation leads to a common tropopause pressure that is probably applicable to many planetary bodies with thick atmospheres.

    • T. D. Robinson
    • D. C. Catling
  • On Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, enigmatic chaos terrain—where the icy crust is cut by a jumble of ridges and cracks—occurs most commonly at lower latitudes. Simulations of convection in the ocean underlying Europa’s icy crust suggest that ocean dynamics can control an enhanced flow of heat to Europa’s equatorial surface, and hence geological activity.

    • K. M. Soderlund
    • B. E. Schmidt
    • D. D. Blankenship
  • The first known phosphorus-rich deposits formed 2 billion years ago, but their origins are unclear. Geochemical and palaeontological analyses of 2-billion-year-old deposits from northwest Russia suggest that the presence of sulphur-oxidizing bacteria and a sharp oxic–anoxic transition in the sediments allowed for phosphorus accumulation in this setting.

    • Aivo Lepland
    • Lauri Joosu
    • Anja Schreiber
  • The Archaean rocks of Isua, West Greenland, contain graphite, but its origins are debated. Geochemical and microscopic analyses suggest that the graphite was formed from biologically formed carbon that was deposited at least 3.7 billion years ago.

    • Yoko Ohtomo
    • Takeshi Kakegawa
    • Minik T. Rosing
  • At mid-ocean ridges, the movements between rift segments are usually accommodated by transform faults that are oriented perpendicular to the rift axis. Analysis of seismic data from rift segments exposed in Iceland shows that such movements can also occur through the rotation of several small faults and crustal blocks that slip like books tilting on a shelf.

    • Robert G. Green
    • Robert S. White
    • Tim Greenfield
  • The Canterbury earthquake sequence that struck New Zealand in 2010 and 2011 was characterized by an extended series of aftershocks. Analysis of seismic data show that a broad region of previously strong crustal rocks was weakened during the mainshock, and variations in crustal strength may have contributed to the protracted seismic activity.

    • Martin Reyners
    • Donna Eberhart-Phillips
    • Stacey Martin
  • Great earthquakes in the Himalaya are thought to occur mostly along the range front. Field mapping and radiocarbon dating reveal earthquake rupture on a previously unrecognized fault in the interior of the western Himalaya, which forms part of a key structural component of the mountain range, implying that seismic risk evaluations should be revised.

    • M. A. Murphy
    • M. H. Taylor
    • C. Beaumont
  • The characteristics of magmas typically associated with porphyry copper deposits are thought to be imparted in the mantle. Statistical assessment of over 40,000 geochemical analyses of magmatic rocks formed in subduction zones worldwide, however, shows that the characteristics of these magmatic rocks are systematically controlled by the thickness of the arc crust.

    • Massimo Chiaradia
  • The volume of Archaean crust preserved at Earth’s surface today is low. Thermodynamic calculations and geodynamic modelling show that the thick, primary crust that would have formed on a much hotter Archaean Earth was denser than the underlying mantle, and would have therefore been recycled back into the mantle as drips.

    • Tim E. Johnson
    • Michael Brown
    • Jill A. VanTongeren
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  • Dark streaks that appear on the surface of Mars during warm seasons have been observed at the mid-latitudes and tentatively attributed to the flow of briny water. Imagery from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter over multiple Mars years suggests that these seasonally active features are also present in equatorial regions, where liquid surface water is not expected.

    • Alfred S. McEwen
    • Colin M. Dundas
    • Nicolas Thomas
  • Ancient valleys suggest a warm early Mars where liquid water flowed, but a greenhouse effect strong enough to offset a dim early Sun has been difficult to explain. Climate simulations suggest that sufficient concentrations of the greenhouse gases CO2 and H2 — outgassed during volcanic eruptions — could have warmed Mars above water’s freezing point.

    • Ramses M. Ramirez
    • Ravi Kopparapu
    • James F. Kasting
  • Volcanic eruptions are often preceded by long-period seismic events that were thought to be generated by the resonance of cracks filled with magmatic fluid. Analysis and modelling of long-period seismicity at volcanoes in Italy, Costa Rica and Peru shows that it could instead be caused by slow rupture along faults in the upper volcanic edifice.

    • Christopher J. Bean
    • Louis De Barros
    • Shane Murphy
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