Solid Earth sciences

  • Article
    | Open Access

    Landslides are damaging natural hazards and can often lead to unexpected casualties and property damage. Here, the authors conduct geodetic and hydrological data analyses of the Slumgullion landslide, Colorado, and quantify the mass movement to find it fits a power-law flow theory and responds to hydroclimatic variability.

    • Xie Hu
    • , Roland Bürgmann
    • , William H. Schulz
    •  & Eric J. Fielding
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The early Earth’s atmosphere had very low oxygen levels for hundreds of millions of years, until the 2.4 Ga Great Oxidation Event, which remains poorly understood. Here, the authors show that reducing Archean volcanic gases could have prevented atmospheric O2 from accumulating, and therefore mantle oxidation was likely very important in setting the evolution of O2 and aerobic life.

    • Shintaro Kadoya
    • , David C. Catling
    • , Robert W. Nicklas
    • , Igor S. Puchtel
    •  & Ariel D. Anbar
  • Matters Arising
    | Open Access

    Recently, Pandey et al proposed relict subduction initiation occurred along a passive margin in the northwest Indian Ocean. Here, Clift et al question the evidence for subduction initiation, suggesting that simpler rifting-related processes can more simply explain the available data for the Laxmi Basin.

    • Peter D. Clift
    • , Gérôme Calvès
    •  & Tara N. Jonell
  • Matters Arising
    | Open Access

    Recently, Pandey et al. proposed relict subduction initiation occurred along a passive margin in the northwest Indian Ocean, however, Clift et al. questioned their evidence for subduction initiation, suggesting that simpler rifting-related processes could more simply explain the available data. Here, Pandey et al. reply to Clift et al.’s comment, and argue that geochemical and isotope data for Laxmi basin lavas distinctly imply relict subduction initiation.

    • Dhananjai K. Pandey
    • , Anju Pandey
    •  & Scott A. Whattam
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Feldspars are stable at pressures up to 3 GPa along the mantle geotherm, but they can persist metastably at higher pressures at colder conditions. Here, above 10 GPa the authors find  new high-pressure polymorphs of feldspars that could persist at depths corresponding to the Earth’s upper mantle, potentially influencing the dynamics and fate of cold subducting slabs.

    • Anna Pakhomova
    • , Dariia Simonova
    • , Iuliia Koemets
    • , Egor Koemets
    • , Georgios Aprilis
    • , Maxim Bykov
    • , Liudmila Gorelova
    • , Timofey Fedotenko
    • , Vitali Prakapenka
    •  & Leonid Dubrovinsky
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The Semail ophiolite provides evidence for geological processes that form oceanic crust, however, its deep structure remains debated. Here, the authors use geophysical imaging to determine that the ophiolite is bound by a thrust fault in the west, and a normal fault in the east, bounding a rapidly subsiding basin, implying the ophiolite may not be rooted in the Gulf of Oman crust.

    • M. Y. Ali
    • , A. B. Watts
    • , M. P. Searle
    • , B. Keats
    • , S. Pilia
    •  & T. Ambrose
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Subglacial lakes and jökulhlaups (glacier outburst floods) are common in volcanic and glaciated environments, and can pose potential threats to communities living downstream. Here, the authors find that seismic tremor signals during subglacial floods can be used to locate and track the speed and size of the flood before it arrives at the river system, and improves previous methods of early glacial flood warning by a factor of 5.

    • Eva P. S. Eibl
    • , Christopher J. Bean
    • , Bergur Einarsson
    • , Finnur Pàlsson
    •  & Kristin S. Vogfjörd
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Large-volume volcanic eruptions can occur despite only limited precursory activity. Here the authors show that modelling the combined effects of buoyant magma, viscoelastic earth behaviour, and sustained magma channels can explain such behaviour of volcanoes and gives an estimate of pressure evolution in magma bodies.

    • Freysteinn Sigmundsson
    • , Virginie Pinel
    • , Ronni Grapenthin
    • , Andrew Hooper
    • , Sæmundur A. Halldórsson
    • , Páll Einarsson
    • , Benedikt G. Ófeigsson
    • , Elías R. Heimisson
    • , Kristín Jónsdóttir
    • , Magnús T. Gudmundsson
    • , Kristín Vogfjörd
    • , Michelle Parks
    • , Siqi Li
    • , Vincent Drouin
    • , Halldór Geirsson
    • , Stéphanie Dumont
    • , Hildur M. Fridriksdottir
    • , Gunnar B. Gudmundsson
    • , Tim J. Wright
    •  & Tadashi Yamasaki
  • Article
    | Open Access

    CH4 seepage mostly occurs in petroleum-bearing sedimentary basins, but the role of tectonics in degassing is mostly only known at a local scale. Here, the authors conduct a global scale analysis of seeps, faults, sedimentary basins, petroleum fields and heat flow, and find that geological CH4 seepage preferably develops in convergent basins, while gas seeps can occur along any brittle tectonic structure.

    • Giancarlo Ciotoli
    • , Monia Procesi
    • , Giuseppe Etiope
    • , Umberto Fracassi
    •  & Guido Ventura
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Identification of stratospheric volcanic eruptions in the geological record and their link to mass extinction events during the past 540 million years remains challenging. Here, the authors report unexpected, large mass-independent sulphur isotopic compositions of pyrite in Late Ordovician sedimentary rocks, which they suggest originates from stratospheric volcanism linked to the first pulse of the Late Ordovician mass extinction.

    • Dongping Hu
    • , Menghan Li
    • , Xiaolin Zhang
    • , Alexandra V. Turchyn
    • , Yizhe Gong
    •  & Yanan Shen
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Earth rotation variation reflects the physics, dynamics and the magnetic field changes of Earth’s interior. The authors find a significant ~8.6 year periodic increasing oscillation in length of day and its good link to geomagnetic jerks related to Earth’s core oscillations, which may be used to predict the future jerk timings.

    • Pengshuo Duan
    •  & Chengli Huang
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Siberian Arctic permafrost contains vast stores of carbon, the fate of which is dependent on the climate. Here the authors use models of future scenarios to show that under the direst climate changes up to 2/3 of the stored organic carbon could thaw.

    • Jan Nitzbon
    • , Sebastian Westermann
    • , Moritz Langer
    • , Léo C. P. Martin
    • , Jens Strauss
    • , Sebastian Laboor
    •  & Julia Boike
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Slow slip events are commonly observed on natural faults all around the world and are suggested to precede large magnitude and/or high frequency earthquakes. The authors here identify merging phases of slow slip events using continuous GPS measurements and define areas and periods at risk of large earthquake occurrence.

    • Quentin Bletery
    •  & Jean-Mathieu Nocquet
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The dynamics of continental subduction is largely controlled by the rheological properties of rocks involved along the subduction channel. Here, the authors reveal a prominent, yet previously undetected, low-velocity body beneath the Western Alps, along the plate interface between the European slab and the overlying Adriatic mantle, which they interpret as a serpentinite layer.

    • Liang Zhao
    • , Marco G. Malusà
    • , Huaiyu Yuan
    • , Anne Paul
    • , Stéphane Guillot
    • , Yang Lu
    • , Laurent Stehly
    • , Stefano Solarino
    • , Elena Eva
    • , Gang Lu
    • , Thomas Bodin
    • , Liang Zhao
    • , Marco G. Malusà
    • , Anne Paul
    • , Stéphane Guillot
    • , Stefano Solarino
    • , Elena Eva
    • , Gang Lu
    • , Anne Paul
    •  & Stefano Solarino
  • Article
    | Open Access

    River avulsions are dramatic events that can cause the loss of many human lives. The authors here investigate how river avulsion style changes with river morphology, and how these changes impact flooding and stratigraphy.

    • J. M. Valenza
    • , D. A. Edmonds
    • , T. Hwang
    •  & S. Roy
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The motions of subducted slabs are expected to drive mantle flow around slab edges, however, evidence of deep mantle flow has so far remained elusive. Here, the authors present a Full Waveform Inversion 3-D anisotropy model which allows them to infer deep subduction-induced mantle flows underneath the Mid-Americas and the Caribbean.

    • Hejun Zhu
    • , Robert J. Stern
    •  & Jidong Yang
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Retreating subduction zones are enabled by the development of faults at the edges of the slab, but the physical mechanisms controlling fault propagation remain debated. Here, the authors find that oceanic crust recycling is controlled by weakening of fractures forming at the edges of slabs.

    • Jessica Munch
    • , Taras Gerya
    •  & Kosuke Ueda
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Applying first-principles molecular dynamic simulations and thermodynamic modelling, the authors suggest a vertical oxygen fugacity gradient in magma oceans of Earth, Mars, and the Moon. Consequently, the study proposes larger planets like Earth to have stronger oxidized upper mantles than smaller bodies such as Mars or the Moon.

    • Jie Deng
    • , Zhixue Du
    • , Bijaya B. Karki
    • , Dipta B. Ghosh
    •  & Kanani K. M. Lee
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Indian continental subduction can explain crustal deformation, magmatic activity and uplift of the Tibetan Plateau following collision, however, the nature of the Indian subducting slab beneath Myanmar and the related tectonic regime remain unclear. Here, the authors present direct structural evidence of present-day Indian continental subduction beneath Asia.

    • Tianyu Zheng
    • , Yumei He
    • , Lin Ding
    • , Mingming Jiang
    • , Yinshuang Ai
    • , Chit Thet Mon
    • , Guangbing Hou
    • , Kyaing Sein
    •  & Myo Thant
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The authors here present a stress map of the North American crust that gives a new view of dynamics of the continent. The results can be applied to probabilistic seismic hazard analysis and resource development as well as to provide constraints for theoretical models of crustal dynamics.

    • Jens-Erik Lund Snee
    •  & Mark D. Zoback
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The magmatic progression produced during the initiation of the Izu-Bonin-Marianas subduction zone took place rapidly over 1 million years, but it has been unclear why. Here, using numerical models, the authors show that subduction initiation was dominated by vertical forces, internal to the system itself, progressing to self-sustained subduction.

    • B. Maunder
    • , J. Prytulak
    • , S. Goes
    •  & M. Reagan
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Topography at active forearc margins is controlled by numerous competing tectonic and erosional processes acting at different timescales, yet separating their respective contribution remains a challenge. Here, the authors evidence Myr-scale, uplift-then-subsidence cycles controlled by transient accretion at the base of the forearc domain.

    • Armel Menant
    • , Samuel Angiboust
    • , Taras Gerya
    • , Robin Lacassin
    • , Martine Simoes
    •  & Raphael Grandin
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Tidewater glaciers in fjords can advance/retreat independent of climate due to stabilization by sediments at their termini. We show that an Alaskan paleo-ice stream behaved similarly on an open shelf, suggesting that increased sediment flux may delay catastrophic retreat of outlet glaciers in a warming world.

    • Ellen A. Cowan
    • , Sarah D. Zellers
    • , Juliane Müller
    • , Maureen H. Walczak
    • , Lindsay L. Worthington
    • , Beth E. Caissie
    • , Wesley A. Clary
    • , John M. Jaeger
    • , Sean P. S. Gulick
    • , Jacob W. Pratt
    • , Alan C. Mix
    •  & Stewart J. Fallon
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Many major mass extinction events have been associated with large volcanic eruption events, with the argument that large volumes of volcanic degassing could trigger past global climate changes. Here, the authors find that during the end-Triassic extinction event volcanic pulses emitted large amounts of CO2 comparable to projected anthropogenic emissions for the 21st century in the future 2 °C warming scenario.

    • Manfredo Capriolo
    • , Andrea Marzoli
    • , László E. Aradi
    • , Sara Callegaro
    • , Jacopo Dal Corso
    • , Robert J. Newton
    • , Benjamin J. W. Mills
    • , Paul B. Wignall
    • , Omar Bartoli
    • , Don R. Baker
    • , Nasrrddine Youbi
    • , Laurent Remusat
    • , Richard Spiess
    •  & Csaba Szabó
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The authors here combine a range of geophysical data, numerical modelling and borehole data to present a high resolution map of an offshore freshened groundwater system in the Canterbury Bight, New Zealand. The study shows the extensions of the offshore freshened groundwater system to be controlled by high permeability shelf sediments, buried paleochannels and onshore rivers.

    • Aaron Micallef
    • , Mark Person
    • , Amir Haroon
    • , Bradley A. Weymer
    • , Marion Jegen
    • , Katrin Schwalenberg
    • , Zahra Faghih
    • , Shuangmin Duan
    • , Denis Cohen
    • , Joshu J. Mountjoy
    • , Susanne Woelz
    • , Carl W. Gable
    • , Tanita Averes
    •  & Ashwani Kumar Tiwari
  • Article
    | Open Access

    This study investigates deep intracontinental earthquakes. Based on field data from exhumed lower crustal pseudotachylytes and mylonites from Lofoten, northern Norway, the authors describe a novel model of earthquake nucleation in the lower crust as a transient consequence of ongoing localised aseismic creep.

    • L. R. Campbell
    • , L. Menegon
    • , Å. Fagereng
    •  & G. Pennacchioni
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Giant rockslides creep slowly for centuries and then can fail catastrophically, posing major threats to society. Here, the authors use observational and experimental evidence to quantitatively capture the full spectrum of giant rockslide behaviour until collapse, that is modulated by hydro-mechanical response to short-term fluid pressure perturbations.

    • Federico Agliardi
    • , Marco M. Scuderi
    • , Nicoletta Fusi
    •  & Cristiano Collettini
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Magmatic and tectonic activity at mid-oceanic ridges can give detailed insights into high-temperature hydrothermal circulation of fluids. The authors here present geochemical and geophysical datasets that suggest a hydrothermal system penetrating the upper lithospheric mantle at an ultra-slow spreading mid-oceanic ridge.

    • Chunhui Tao
    • , W. E. Seyfried Jr
    • , R. P. Lowell
    • , Yunlong Liu
    • , Jin Liang
    • , Zhikui Guo
    • , Kang Ding
    • , Huatian Zhang
    • , Jia Liu
    • , Lei Qiu
    • , Igor Egorov
    • , Shili Liao
    • , Minghui Zhao
    • , Jianping Zhou
    • , Xianming Deng
    • , Huaiming Li
    • , Hanchuang Wang
    • , Wei Cai
    • , Guoyin Zhang
    • , Hongwei Zhou
    • , Jian Lin
    •  & Wei Li
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Complex macroscopic organisms are first found in the Ediacaran period, but their ecology during this time is not well understood. Here, Bobrovskiy et al. analyse biomarkers from Ediacaran sediments hosting macrofossils and find evidence for abundant algal food sources available for these organisms.

    • Ilya Bobrovskiy
    • , Janet M. Hope
    • , Elena Golubkova
    •  & Jochen J. Brocks
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The dominant emission sources of anthropogenic radionuclides come from either atmospheric nuclear weapons tests or the nuclear industry (i.e., reprocessing plants or reactor accidents). Here, the authors identify a new environmental isotope tracer ($$^{233}$$233U/$$^{236}$$236U) which can help distinguish emissions from nuclear weapons tests, and can also provide constraints on past weapon designs and fuel sources, for which many details remain classified or lost.

    • K. Hain
    • , P. Steier
    • , M. B. Froehlich
    • , R. Golser
    • , X. Hou
    • , J. Lachner
    • , T. Nomura
    • , J. Qiao
    • , F. Quinto
    •  & A. Sakaguchi
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The composition and tectonic affiliation of Earth's earliest crust remains disputed. Here, the authors find that Archean Jack Hills zircons crystallized from melts with compositions similar to andesite formed in modern subduction settings, which they suggest is consistent with an early onset of modern-style plate tectonics on Earth.

    • Simon Turner
    • , Simon Wilde
    • , Gerhard Wörner
    • , Bruce Schaefer
    •  & Yi-Jen Lai
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Using data recorded by a new seafloor seismic network, the authors reveal the detailed 3D structure of the source zone of the great 2011 Tohoku-oki earthquake, which sheds new light on the mechanism of the great earthquake and tsunami.

    • Yuanyuan Hua
    • , Dapeng Zhao
    • , Genti Toyokuni
    •  & Yixian Xu
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Cooling of the iron core in the early Earth may have been too slow to allow for the generation of a magnetic field. Based on quantum mechanical and geodynamical modelling approaches, the authors find that the electrical conductivity of silicate liquid at high pressure and temperature conditions could have been sufficient to generate a silicate dynamo and a magnetic field in the early Earth.

    • Lars Stixrude
    • , Roberto Scipioni
    •  & Michael P. Desjarlais
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Glaciers have profoundly shaped Earth’s surface, but glacial erosion models lack a strong empirical basis. Cook et al. have compiled a dataset that illustrates how the speed at which glaciers move controls the rate at which they erode, and that climate is crucial in modulating glacier sliding speed and erosion rates.

    • Simon J. Cook
    • , Darrel A. Swift
    • , Martin P. Kirkbride
    • , Peter G. Knight
    •  & Richard I. Waller
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Following the impact of the protoplanet Theia, planet Earth likely transformed into a magma ocean. New high temperature and pressure experiments by Xie et al. suggest that a layer enriched in bridgmanite formed during the magma ocean phase of Earth–remnants of this ancient layer today may be responsible for the viscosity peak between 660 and 1500 km in present solid mantle.

    • Longjian Xie
    • , Akira Yoneda
    • , Daisuke Yamazaki
    • , Geeth Manthilake
    • , Yuji Higo
    • , Yoshinori Tange
    • , Nicolas Guignot
    • , Andrew King
    • , Mario Scheel
    •  & Denis Andrault
  • Article
    | Open Access

    In this study, the authors investigate thermal alteration of organic biomarkers to detect paleo earthquakes in the Japan Trench. The study shows that large earthquakes like the 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake can slip through different types of sediment rather than being restricted to the weakest layers.

    • Hannah S. Rabinowitz
    • , Heather M. Savage
    • , Pratigya J. Polissar
    • , Christie D. Rowe
    •  & James D. Kirkpatrick
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Sulfur is one of the key volatiles in Earth’s chemical cycles; however, sulfur speciation, isotopic composition, and flux during the subduction cycle remain unclear. Here, the authors provide direct constraints on subduction zone sulfur recycling from high-pressure rocks and explore implications for arc magmatism.

    • Ji-Lei Li
    • , Esther M. Schwarzenbach
    • , Timm John
    • , Jay J. Ague
    • , Fang Huang
    • , Jun Gao
    • , Reiner Klemd
    • , Martin J. Whitehouse
    •  & Xin-Shui Wang
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The ~70 km-diameter Yarrabubba impact structure in Western Australia has previously been regarded as among Earth’s oldest meteorite craters, but has hitherto lacked absolute age constraints. Here, the authors determine a precise impact age of 2229 ± 5 Ma, which extends the terrestrial cratering record back in time by > 200 million years and establishes Yarrabubba as the oldest recognised meteorite impact structure on Earth.

    • Timmons M. Erickson
    • , Christopher L. Kirkland
    • , Nicholas E. Timms
    • , Aaron J. Cavosie
    •  & Thomas M. Davison
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Decrease of friction during seismic slip is linked to temperature increase and weak phases production inside the fault core. Here the authors propose a mathematical framework which explains the frictional behaviour of all materials reported in literature and precisely captures material weakening during fault slip.

    • Hadrien Rattez
    •  & Manolis Veveakis
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Porphyry copper and gold deposits are the dominant natural suppliers of these metals to our society, yet the large variations in metal endowments of porphyry Cu–Au deposits remain obscure. Here, the author shows that Cu-rich porphyries require large amounts of magma and water to be formed, while Au-rich porphyries are the result of a better efficiency of Au precipitation.

    • Massimo Chiaradia
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The seismic Gutenberg discontinuity has long been associated with the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary, yet the physical explanation of what is causing the discontinuity remains debated. Here, the authors report geochemical evidence, including Mg isotopes, and suggest that melting of recycled crust is responsible for the Gutenberg discontinuity.

    • Jia Liu
    • , Naoto Hirano
    • , Shiki Machida
    • , Qunke Xia
    • , Chunhui Tao
    • , Shili Liao
    • , Jin Liang
    • , Wei Li
    • , Weifang Yang
    • , Guoying Zhang
    •  & Teng Ding
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Seismology is a powerful tool to investigate Earth’s interior. Here, the authors combine numerical approaches with experimental results from previous studies to show a depth dependent behaviour of seismic waves in subducted oceanic crust in Earth’s mantle. The work challenges the currently accepted model of depth-independent seismic wave behaviour in oceanic crust.

    • Wenzhong Wang
    • , Yinhan Xu
    • , Daoyuan Sun
    • , Sidao Ni
    • , Renata Wentzcovitch
    •  & Zhongqing Wu
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Olivine crystals with prominent intracrystalline distortions have previously been used to quantify deformational processes within the mantle. Here, the authors show that similar techniques can be applied to deformed volcanic olivine crystals, providing quantitative constraints on the geometry of melt-rich mush piles within magmatic plumbing systems.

    • Penny E. Wieser
    • , Marie Edmonds
    • , John Maclennan
    •  & John Wheeler
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Cratons represent the ancient cores of continental plates and are generally thought to have been stable since the Archean. Here however, the authors combine seismic analysis with kimberlite data to infer complete destruction of cratonic lithosphere in some places of the African continent.

    • Nicolas Luca Celli
    • , Sergei Lebedev
    • , Andrew J. Schaeffer
    •  & Carmen Gaina