Archives par mot-clé : Geology

Editorial: Deep Carbon Science

by D. Cardace et al., Nov 12, 2020 in Front.Earth.Sci.

Editorial on the Research Topic
Deep Carbon Science

Our understanding of the slow, deep carbon cycle, key to Earth’s habitability is examined here. Because the carbon cycle links Earth’s reservoirs on nano- to mega-scales, we must integrate geological, physical, chemical, biological, and mathematical methods to understand objects and processes so small and yet so vast. Here, we profile current research in the physical chemistry of carbon in natural and model systems, processes ongoing in the deepest portions of planets, and observations of carbon utilization by the deep biosphere. The relationships between the carbon cycle and planetary habitability are undeniable, forming a conceptual anchor to all work in deep carbon science.

Carbon minerals respond to changing pressures, temperatures, and geochemical conditions. The geologic record preserves evidence of transitional periods at the submicroscopic to regional landscape scales, and demonstrates interplay between carbon-bearing phases and the biosphere. In a new review, Morrison et al. (2020) cast a retrospective look through deep time and call for emerging approaches to clarify the coevolution of the biosphere and geosphere.

Critical to transformations of Earth’s carbon inventory over time are indomitable tectonics – which influence Earth’s surface environment, weathering, metamorphism, magmatism, and volcanism. The slow, deep (endogenous) carbon cycle refines and re-distributes carbon within Earth. In fact, over the 200-million-year-long time scale, important tectonic controls on carbon cycling emerge (Wong et al., 2019). Wong et al. (2019) document the spatiotemporal evolution of fluxes inferred from plate tectonic reconstructions, and highlight CO2 fluxes from continental rift settings post-Pangea. The volcanic flux of CO2 has been successfully reconstructed by direct study of CO2 flux through lakes and adjacent soils (Hughes et al., 2019), an important and often overlooked CO2 valve linking lithosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere. From perspectives rooted deeper in the tectonic system, the important roles that serpentinites play in the carbon cycle are evaluated in two senses: 1) serpentinite as a carbon vector to the deep mantle (Merdith et al., 2019), and 2) serpentine mud volcanoes as sites of carbon mobilization through organic acid release (Eickenbusch et al., 2019), in a Mariana Trench case study.

Continuer la lecture de Editorial: Deep Carbon Science

East African Rift System is slowly breaking away, with Madagascar splitting into pieces

by Virginia Tech, Nov 13, 2020 in ScienceDaily

The African continent is slowly separating into several large and small tectonic blocks along the diverging East African Rift System, continuing to Madagascar — the long island just off the coast of Southeast Africa — that itself will also break apart into smaller islands.

These developments will redefine Africa and the Indian Ocean. The finding comes in a new study by D. Sarah Stamps of the Department of Geosciences for the journal Geology. The breakup is a continuation of the shattering of the supercontinent Pangea some 200 million years ago.

Rest assured, though, this isn’t happening anytime soon.

“The rate of present-day break-up is millimeters per year, so it will be millions of years before new oceans start to form,” said Stamps, an assistant professor in the Virginia Tech College of Science. “The rate of extension is fastest in the north, so we’ll see new oceans forming there first.”

Permian–Triassic mass extinction pulses driven by major marine carbon cycle perturbations

by Jurikova, H. et al., Oct 19, 2020 in NatureGeoscience


The Permian/Triassic boundary approximately 251.9 million years ago marked the most severe environmental crisis identified in the geological record, which dictated the onwards course for the evolution of life. Magmatism from Siberian Traps is thought to have played an important role, but the causational trigger and its feedbacks are yet to be fully understood. Here we present a new boron-isotope-derived seawater pH record from fossil brachiopod shells deposited on the Tethys shelf that demonstrates a substantial decline in seawater pH coeval with the onset of the mass extinction in the latest Permian. Combined with carbon isotope data, our results are integrated in a geochemical model that resolves the carbon cycle dynamics as well as the ocean redox conditions and nitrogen isotope turnover. We find that the initial ocean acidification was intimately linked to a large pulse of carbon degassing from the Siberian sill intrusions. We unravel the consequences of the greenhouse effect on the marine environment, and show how elevated sea surface temperatures, export production and nutrient input driven by increased rates of chemical weathering gave rise to widespread deoxygenation and sporadic sulfide poisoning of the oceans in the earliest Triassic. Our findings enable us to assemble a consistent biogeochemical reconstruction of the mechanisms that resulted in the largest Phanerozoic mass extinction.

A New Mass Extinction Event Has Been Discovered, And It Triggered The Rise of Dinosaurs

by M. Benton, Sep 25, 2020 in ScienceAlert

Huge volcanic eruptions 233 million years ago pumped carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapour into the atmosphere. This series of violent explosions, on what we now know as the west coast of Canada, led to massive global warming.

Our new research has revealed that this was a planet-changing mass extinction event that killed off many of the dominant tetrapods and heralded the dawn of the dinosaurs.

The best known mass extinction happened at the end of the Cretaceous period, 66 million years ago. This is when dinosaurs, pterosaurs, marine reptiles and ammonites all died out.

This event was caused primarily by the impact of a giant asteroid that blacked out the light of the sun and caused darkness and freezing, followed by other massive perturbations of the oceans and atmosphere.

Geologists and palaeontologists agree on a roster of five such events, of which the end-Cretaceous mass extinction was the last. So our new discovery of a previously unknown mass extinction might seem unexpected.

And yet this event, termed the Carnian Pluvial Episode (CPE), seems to have killed as many species as the giant asteroid did. Ecosystems on land and sea were profoundly changed, as the planet got warmer and drier.

On land, this triggered profound changes in plants and herbivores. In turn, with the decline of the dominant plant-eating tetrapods, such as rhynchosaurs and dicynodonts, the dinosaurs were given their chance.

Curved rock etchings reveal which way dangerous faults ruptured—and how they might again

by P. Voosen, Sep 23, 2020 in AAAS Science

Many of the world’s most dangerous earthquake faults are a silent menace: They have not ruptured in more than a century. To gauge the hazard they pose to buildings and people, geologists cannot rely on the record of recent strikes, captured by seismometers. Instead, they must figure out how the faults behaved in the past by looking for clues in the rocks themselves, including slickenlines, scour marks along the exposed rock face of a fault that can indicate how much it slipped in past earthquakes.

Earthquakes don’t happen all at once. Rather, the slip between rocks begins at one spot on the face of the fault—the hypocenter—and travels along it, like a zipper being unzipped. As the rupture advances, the earthquake waves it generates pile up and intensify, like the siren of an approaching ambulance. Los Angeles lies at the northern terminus of the southern San Andreas fault, Ampuero notes. “If it breaks north, toward LA, that would be pretty bad.”

Life on Earth may have begun in hostile hot springs

by Jack L. Lee, Sep 245, 2020 in Sciencenews

At Bumpass Hell in California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park, the ground is literally boiling, and the aroma of rotten eggs fills the air. Gas bubbles rise through puddles of mud, producing goopy popping sounds. Jets of scorching-hot steam blast from vents in the earth. The fearsome site was named for the cowboy Kendall Bumpass, who in 1865 got too close and stepped through the thin crust. Boiling, acidic water burned his leg so badly that it had to be amputated.

Some scientists contend that life on our planet arose in such seemingly inhospitable conditions. Long before creatures roamed the Earth, hot springs like Bumpass Hell may have promoted chemical reactions that linked together simple molecules in a first step toward complexity. Other scientists, however, place the starting point for Earth’s life underwater, at the deep hydrothermal vents where heated, mineral-rich water billows from cracks in the ocean floor.

As researchers study and debate where and how life on Earth first ignited, their findings offer an important bonus. Understanding the origins of life on this planet could offer hints about where to search for life elsewhere, says Natalie Batalha, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “It has very significant implications for the future of space exploration.” Chemist Wenonah Vercoutere agrees. “The rules of physics are the same throughout the whole universe,” says Vercoutere, of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “So what is there to say that the rules of biology do not also carry through and are in place and active in the whole universe?”

A global-scale data set of mining areas

by Maus, V. Sep 8, 2020 in ScientificData OPEN ACCESS


The area used for mineral extraction is a key indicator for understanding and mitigating the environmental impacts caused by the extractive sector. To date, worldwide data products on mineral extraction do not report the area used by mining activities. In this paper, we contribute to filling this gap by presenting a new data set of mining extents derived by visual interpretation of satellite images. We delineated mining areas within a 10 km buffer from the approximate geographical coordinates of more than six thousand active mining sites across the globe. The result is a global-scale data set consisting of 21,060 polygons that add up to 57,277 km2. The polygons cover all mining above-ground features that could be identified from the satellite images, including open cuts, tailings dams, waste rock dumps, water ponds, and processing infrastructure. The data set is available for download from and visualization at


by Cap Allon, Sep 21, 2020 in Electroverse

Ecuador’s active Sangay Volcano exploded in dramatic fashion over the weekend, firing volcanic ash high into the atmosphere — the explosion was a number of times stronger than those previously observed during the volcano’s recent uptick.

The ‘high-level’ eruption occurred at 04:20 local time on Sunday, September 20 and generated a dense, dark ash plume, but the ‘biggie’ was sandwiched between numerous other powerful blasts that occurred throughout the weekend:

More crucially though, particulates ejected to around 32,800 ft (10 km) –and into the stratosphere– can have a direct cooling effect across the planet.

Volcanic eruptions are one of the key forcings driving Earth into its next bout of global cooling. Their worldwide uptick (along with a seismic uptick) is tied to low solar activity, coronal holes, a waning magnetosphere, and the influx of Cosmic Rays penetrating silica-rich magma.

A 500-million-year survey of Earth’s climate reveals dire warning for humanity

by P. Voosen, May 22, 2019 in AAAS/Science

When it opens next month, the revamped fossil hall of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., will be more than a vault of dinosaur bones. It will show how Earth’s climate has shifted over the eons, driving radical changes in life, and how, in the modern age, one form of life—humans—is, in turn, transforming the climate.

To tell that story, Scott Wing and Brian Huber, a paleobotanist and paleontologist, respectively, at the museum, wanted to chart swings in Earth’s average surface temperature over the past 500 million years or so. The two researchers also thought a temperature curve could counter climate contrarians’ claim that global warming is no concern because Earth was much hotter millions of years ago. Wing and Huber wanted to show the reality of ancient temperature extremes—and how rapid shifts between them have led to mass extinctions. Abrupt climate changes, Wing says, “have catastrophic side effects that are really hard to adapt to.”

But actually making the chart was unexpectedly challenging—and triggered a major effortto reconstruct the record. Although far from complete, the research is already showing that some ancient climates were even more extreme than was thought.

Volcanic ash may have a bigger impact on the climate than we thought

by University of Colorado at Boulder, Sep 11, 2020 in ScienceDaily

“They saw some large particles floating around in the atmosphere a month after the eruption,” Zhu said. “It looked like ash.”

She explained that scientists have long known that volcanic eruptions can take a toll on the planet’s climate. These events blast huge amounts of sulfur-rich particles high into Earth’s atmosphere where they can block sunlight from reaching the ground.

Researchers haven’t thought, however, that ash could play much of a role in that cooling effect. These chunks of rocky debris, scientists reasoned, are so heavy that most of them likely fall out of volcanic clouds not long after an eruption.

Zhu’s team wanted to find out why that wasn’t the case with Kelut. Drawing on aircraft and satellite observations of the unfolding disaster, the group discovered that the volcano’s plume seemed to be rife with small and lightweight particles of ash — tiny particles that were likely capable of floating in the air for long periods of time, much like dandelion fluff.

Journal Reference:

  1. Yunqian Zhu, Owen B. Toon, Eric J. Jensen, Charles G. Bardeen, Michael J. Mills, Margaret A. Tolbert, Pengfei Yu, Sarah Woods. Persisting volcanic ash particles impact stratospheric SO2 lifetime and aerosol optical properties. Nature Communications, 2020; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-18352-5

Meteorite study suggests Earth may have been wet since it formed

by Washington University in St. Louis, Aug 27, 2020 in ScienceDaily

Enstatite chondrite meteorites, once considered ‘dry,’ contain enough water to fill the oceans — and then some

A new study finds that Earth’s water may have come from materials that were present in the inner solar system at the time the planet formed — instead of far-reaching comets or asteroids delivering such water. The findings published Aug. 28 in Science suggest that Earth may have always been wet.

Researchers from the Centre de Recherches Petrographiques et Geochimiques (CRPG, CNRS/Universite de Lorraine) in Nancy, France, including one who is now a postdoctoral fellow at Washington University in St. Louis, determined that a type of meteorite called an enstatite chondrite contains sufficient hydrogen to deliver at least three times the amount of water contained in the Earth’s oceans, and probably much more.

Enstatite chondrites are entirely composed of material from the inner solar system — essentially the same stuff that made up the Earth originally.

“Our discovery shows that the Earth’s building blocks might have significantly contributed to the Earth’s water,” said lead author Laurette Piani, a researcher at CPRG. “Hydrogen-bearing material was present in the inner solar system at the time of the rocky planet formation, even though the temperatures were too high for water to condense.”

Le Précambrien : les bactéries, la tectonique des plaques et l’oxygène

by A. Préat (.pdf), 21 août 2020 in Bull.Séanc.Acad.R.Sci.OutreMer

 Mots-clés. — Écosystèmes microbiens; Isotopes du carbone et du soufre; Oxydoréduction; Oxygène; Océans et atmosphère. 

Résumé. — L’oxygène n’est pas apparu aussi brutalement qu’on le pensait sur notre planète. Malgré un apport en oxygène lié aux cyanobactéries dès l’archéen, ce ne sont pas ces microorganismes qui sont à la base de la première grande «révolution» de l’oxygène qui a eu lieu à la limite archéen/paléoprotérozoïque (il y a deux milliards et demi d’années) dans l’atmosphère, lors du Grand Événement d’Oxydation. Ce sont les processus liés au cycle de la tectonique des plaques (activité mantellique et périodes intenses d’érosion/altération) qui ont contribué de manière déterminante à l’augmentation de la concentration de l’oxygène atmosphérique voici deux milliards et demi d’années. Les deux principaux processus responsables de cette augmentation sont liés à l’enfouissement de la matière organique et de la pyrite. L’altération des séries riches de ces deux composants conditionnera ensuite pendant près d’un milliard d’années la composition chimique des océans en oxygène, soufre et fer. Au cours du temps, l’oxygène proviendra de l’activité des cyanobactéries et l’atmosphère réductrice du début de l’archéen sera remplacée par une atmosphère oxydante à la fin du précambrien. 

Keywords. — Microbial Ecosystems; Carbon and Sulfur Isotopes; Oxidation Reduction; Oxygen; Oceans and Atmosphere. 

Summary. — The Precambrian: Bacteria, Plate Tectonics and Oxygen. — Oxygen did not appear as abruptly as we thought on our planet. Despite an oxygen supply related to cyanobacteria since the Archean, these microorganisms are not at the origin of the first great oxygen revolution that took place at the Archean/Paleoproterozoic boundary (two and a half billion years) in the atmosphere during the Great Oxidation Event. Two processes related to the cycle of plate tectonics (mantle activity and intense periods of erosion/weathering) were mostly involved in the increase of the atmospheric oxygen concentration two and a half billion years ago. These two main processes are related to the burial of organic matter and pyrite. The alteration of series with high contents of these two elements will then condition for nearly one billion years the oxygen, sulfur and iron chemical composition of the oceans. Oxygen will finally come from the activity of cyanobacteria and the early Archean reducing atmosphere will be replaced by an oxidizing atmosphere at the end of the Precambrian. 

Fig. 3. — Évolution des compositions chimiques et des organismes des océans en trois phases majeures. À l’archéen, les océans contiennent peu d’oxygène et sont relativement riches en fer (colonne de gauche), alors que dans les océans modernes (colonne de droite) l’oxygène est abondant et le fer en quantité limitée. Entre ces deux phases, un long intervalle d’un peu plus d’un milliard d’années est caractérisé par des océans avec des concentrations modérées d’oxygène en surface et des eaux plus profondes riches en H2S en présence de quantités limitées de fer, de molybdène et d’autres éléments en traces importants dans les cycles biologiques. La colonne centrale représente l’«Océan de Canfield» et caractérise le Boring Billion. L’H2S produit (suite à la présence des sulfates, cf. texte) réagit avec le fer ferreux pour former la pyrite. Le fer ferreux n’est donc pas consommé par l’oxygène durant cet intervalle de temps, mais par l’H2S. L’Événement Lomagundi-Jatuli a lieu à environ 2,1 Ga dans le GOE (Great Oxidation Event), marqué par une très forte production d’oxygène. Le début du GOE est marqué par l’oxydation de la pyrite sur les cratons et la disparition des minéraux détritiques sensibles aux conditions d’oxydoréduction des éléments chalcophiles ou sidérophiles (uraninite, sidérite, pyrite, molybdénite, etc.). Les deux grands épisodes «Terre Boule de Neige» à 2,3 Ga («Glaciation Makganyena») et 0,635 («Glaciation Marinoenne»), et d’autres événements glaciaires moins importants ne sont pas reportés ni discutés dans le texte (modifié d’après Knoll 2003). 


More Proof That Geologic Forces Are Melting Thwaites and Pine Island Glaciers

by J.E. Kamis, July 20, 2020 in ClimateChangeDispatch

As previously explained before, increased melting/ice loss of Antarctica’s Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers is the result of geologically induced heat flow emitted from underlying bedrock “hotspots,” not climate change (Figure 1).

All but a very minor amount of Antarctica’s glacial ice melting occurs in the western portion of this continent. The most rapid and greatest ice mass loss areas are in West Antarctica.

They are positioned directly above geographically extensive and high heat flow geological features. This association is thought to be strong evidence of a cause and effect relationship.

Discussion of evidence supporting the contention that the melting of Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers is the result of bedrock heat flow begins with a review of the regional geology (refer to Figure 1).

The Pluton Rich “hotspot” is a 61,000-thousand-square-mile area that is home to numerous high-heat-flow lava pockets that are bounded and fueled by deep earth reaching faults.

Several detailed research studies document the existence and configuration of this area. This lies along the West Antarctic Rift.

The Mount Erebus Volcanic Complex “Hotspot” is the most geologically active portion of Antarctica. It is a 25,000-square-mile high-heat-flow area, much of which is absent of glacial ice.

The absence of glacial ice across a huge portion of West Antarctica is extremely unusual and exceedingly difficult to explain by invoking global warming.

Figure 1. NASA map of Antarctica’s ice sheet thickness 1992-2017. Greatest ice thickness losses shaded red. The outline of three regional sub-glacial geological Hotspots” are outlined in red (Image by NASA, most labeling by J. Kamis).

Atmospheric CO2 during the Mid-Piacenzian Warm Period and the M2 glaciation

by de la Vega et al., 2020 in Nature OPEN  ACCESS


The Piacenzian stage of the Pliocene (2.6 to 3.6 Ma) is the most recent past interval of sustained global warmth with mean global temperatures markedly higher (by ~2–3 °C) than today. Quantifying CO2 levels during the mid-Piacenzian Warm Period (mPWP) provides a means, therefore, to deepen our understanding of Earth System behaviour in a warm climate state. Here we present a new high-resolution record of atmospheric CO2 using the δ11B-pH proxy from 3.35 to 3.15 million years ago (Ma) at a temporal resolution of 1 sample per 3–6 thousand years (kyrs). Our study interval covers both the coolest marine isotope stage of the mPWP, M2 (~3.3 Ma) and the transition into its warmest phase including interglacial KM5c (centered on ~3.205 Ma) which has a similar orbital configuration to present. We find that CO2 ranged from 389+388389−8+38ppm to 331+1311,331−11+13,ppm, with CO2 during the KM5c interglacial being 371+3229371−29+32ppm (at 95% confidence). Our findings corroborate the idea that changes in atmospheric CO2 levels played a distinct role in climate variability during the mPWP. They also facilitate ongoing data-model comparisons and suggest that, at present rates of human emissions, there will be more CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere by 2025 than at any time in at least the last 3.3 million years.

Carbon dioxide level unprecedented in 15 MY… More evidence it’s not the climate control knob!avid Middl

by David Middleton, July 10, 2020 in WUWT

If the Earth was 3-4 °C warmer with a much higher sea level 3.3 million years ago, with about the same CO2 concentration, what does this say about the potency of it as a climate control knob?

The last time CO2 levels were this low, Earth was in the deepest ice age of the Phanerozoic Eon, the Pennsylvanian (Late Carboniferous)-Early Permian.

Figure 5. Phanerozoic temperatures (pH-corrected) and carbon dioxide. The Miocene is the first epoch of the Neogene Period (Berner et al, 2001 and Royer et al., 2004) (older is toward the left).

Mass spectrometry and climate science. Part I: Determining past climates

by Judith Curry, June 16, 2020 in ChRotter_WUWT

Mass spectrometry is essential for research in climate science.

Understanding climate requires having sufficient knowledge about past climate and about the important factors that are influencing climate today, so that reliable models can be developed to predict future climate.

Analytical chemistry enables measurement of the chemical composition of materials, from the amounts of elements and their isotopes in a sample to the identity and concentrations of substances in the most complex biological organisms.

This two-part series covers the application of a powerful analytical chemistry technology — mass spectrometry — to two important areas in climate science:

  • Obtaining reliable information about past climate
  • Understanding composition and behavior of aerosols, which have a large impact on climate

The examples that are included for each topic were selected out of many published papers on the study of climate using mass spectrometry, partly because they feature a very wide range of types of these instruments. The authors were very helpful in providing me with information on their work.[1]

The technology described in this essay may at times be quite complicated! However, I hope that the results of each study will be understandable.

Part 1: Determining past climate

Figure 1: Age of samples taken at indicated depth below surface of ice core

Giant tectonic plate under Indian Ocean is breaking in two

by Geggel L., May 21, 2020 in LiveScience

The giant tectonic plate under the Indian Ocean is going through a rocky breakup … with itself.

In a short time (geologically speaking) this plate will split in two, a new study finds.

To humans, however, this breakup will take an eternity. The plate, known as the India-Australia-Capricorn tectonic plate, is splitting at a snail’s pace — about 0.06 inches (1.7 millimeters) a year. Put another way, in 1 million years, the plate’s two pieces will be about 1 mile (1.7 kilometers) farther apart than they are now.

“It’s not a structure that is moving fast, but it’s still significant compared to other planet boundaries,” said study co-researcher Aurélie Coudurier-Curveur, a senior research fellow of marine geosciences at the Institute of Earth Physics of Paris.

Related: In photos: Ocean hidden beneath Earth’s surface

For instance, the Dead Sea Fault in the Middle East is moving at about double that rate, or 0.2 inches (0.4 centimeters) a year, while the San Andreas Fault in California is moving about 10 times faster, at about 0.7 inches (1.8 cm) a year.

The plate is splitting so slowly and it’s so far underwater, researchers almost missed what they’re calling the “nascent plate boundary.” But two enormous clues — that is, two strong earthquakes originating in a strange spot in the Indian Ocean — suggested that Earth-changing forces were afoot.

On April 11, 2012, a magnitude-8.6 and magnitude-8.2 earthquake hit beneath the Indian Ocean, near Indonesia. The earthquakes didn’t happen along a subduction zone, where one tectonic plate slides under another. Instead, these quakes originated in a weird place for earthquakes to happen — in the middle of the plate.

Arctique géologique 1/2

by Préat A. & Van Vliet-Lanoë B., 22 mai 2020 in ScienceClimatEnergie

A la grande différence de l’Antarctique, l’Arctique est un océan entouré de plateaux continentaux (Fig. 2). L’océan ou bassin arctique est actuellement constitué par un double bassin, séparé une crête très importante, la ride Lomonosov : le sous-bassin canadien à croûte continentale amincie (3 600 m)  et le sous-bassin eurasiatique à croûte océanique mince, de loin le plus profond (5000 m entre la crête Lomonosov et la ride océanique active de Gakkel). Il est entouré comme le long de l’Atlantique Nord par une plateforme continentale ennoyée, constituée de croûte continentale.  Le bassin arctique  d’abord marin et connecté au Proto-Atlantique au début du Jurassique (voir plus loin), est isolé depuis le Jurassique moyen et essentiellement de nature lacustre, modifiant le régime thermique océanique, amenant un contexte voisin du Glaciaire au Crétacé inférieur (au Valanginien in Dromart et al. 2003 ; Korte et al. 2015 ; Piskarev et al. 2018). Il ne se ré-ouvrira sur le bassin atlantique qu’à partir de l’Eocène, via l’ouverture du détroit de Fram. D’autre part le pôle  magnétique terrestre (Nord) est resté sur le bassin arctique depuis le début du Jurassique, donc en position de déficit énergétique lié à l’obliquité de l’orbite terrestre.

Fig. 2  Image Gebco Arctique : L’océan ou bassin arctique est actuellement constitué par un double bassin, séparé une crête très importante, la ride Lomonossov (voir texte).

Are We Seeing a New Ocean Starting to Form in Africa?

by Klemetti, E., May 8, 2020 in EOS

Although shallow magma storage at Erta Ale volcano hints at a rift-to-ridge transition, the tectonic future of the Afar region is far from certain.

Standing next to a lava lake at the summit of a massive volcano, Christopher Moore, a Ph.D. candidate at the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, could see the red haze of lava flows a few kilometers away. This might seem like a rare sight, but at Ethiopia’s Erta Ale, it’s business as usual.

Are such behaviors the first signs of a tectonic transition? This question is part of what Moore has been studying at Erta Ale. The entire Afar region in eastern Africa finds itself in the middle of changes that could split the continent, forming a new ocean basin. The magmatism at Erta Ale might be offering signs of this switch by mimicking the characteristics of a mid-ocean ridge.

Satellite image of eastern Africa, with the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden to the east
The East African Rift valley, the Red Sea, and the Gulf of Aden are clearly visible in this Landsat 8 image, taken on 8 November 2019. Credit: NASA/Erik Klemetti

However, there isn’t agreement about how close the Afar region is to this tectonic transition. The geophysical characteristics of magma storage at Erta Ale could point to the region’s conversion to an incipient oceanic spreading center, but the petrology of the erupting lava might be telling us that we aren’t there yet.

L’Antarctique géologique (2/2)

by A. Préat, 1 mai 2020 in ScienceClimatEnergie

Cet article fait suite aux trois récents articles publiés par le Prof. Maurin sur SCE (1/3, 2/3,  3/3), et traite de l’évolution géologique de la plaque Antarctica.
Voir également L’Antarctique géologique (1/2).

3/ Situation récente à l’échelle géologique

3.1. Isolation de la plaque Antarctique

Nous arrivons ainsi à la situation actuelle avec l’Arctique et l’Antarctique, situation décrite dans les parties 1 à 3 des articles de M. Maurin (parties 1/3, 2/3 et 3/3). D’où proviennent les glaciations actuelles ? Pour les comprendre il faut remonter au début de l’ère cénozoïque en considérant l’Antarctique qui était en position polaire (Scotese, 2001).

La plaque antarctique, partie intégrante de l’ensemble des continents formant le Gondwana est entourée dès le Jurassique (Figs. 7 et 12, inL’Antarctique géologique 1/2) de rides médio-océaniques (excepté la péninsule antarctique qui provient d’une limite de plaque convergente active avec failles transformantes séparant la plaque Antarctique et la plaque Scotia). En conséquence, la plaque Antarctique est actuellement en expansion par rapport aux plaques adjacentes, et fut particulièrement stable et isolée par rapport aux événements tectoniques du Mésozoïque et du Cénozoïque (ici).

Dans ce contexte, et en remontant le temps, il faut noter l’individualisation, dès l’Ordovicien, de la péninsule antarctique avec des montagnes de plus de 3200 m d’altitude constituant aujourd’hui la région la plus au nord de l’Antarctique occidental et s’étendant au-delà du cercle polaire. Cette chaîne de montagnes prolonge les Andes de l’Amérique du Sud dans la continuité d’une dorsale sous-marine caractérisée par un gradient géothermique élevé (voir plus loin). Ainsi on voit que l’Antarctique, depuis longtemps et encore aujourd’hui, participe à un jeu de tectonique des plaques encore active avec des effets locaux (notamment variations du  gradient géothermique).Ce gradient géothermique est un élément important à prendre en considération dans la dynamique glaciaire car il favorise la fonte et ensuite le glissement des glaces.

Notons que Arctowski (in Fogg 1992) avait déjà suggéré en 1901 que les Andes étaient présentes dans la pointe nord de la péninsule antarctique (Graham Land) .

3.2. Englacement de la plaque Antarctique

Fig. 16 : Image des fonds marins d’une chaîne de 800 km de long de plusieurs volcans actifs de 1000 m de haut situés à proximité de la partie nord du continent antarctique. D’après Kamis, 2016.

L’Antarctique géologique (1/2)

by A. Préat, 24 avril 2020 in ScienceClimatEnergie

Cet article traite de l’évolution géologique de la plaque Antarctica, et fait suite aux trois récents articles publiés dans SCE par le Prof. Maurin sur la cryosphère actuelle (1/3, 2/3,  3/3).

1/ Les glaces fascinent …

Les glaces fascinent depuis longtemps les climatologues qui y voient un monde à part, aujourd’hui elles sont suivies ‘à la loupe’ car elles témoigneraient en tout ou en partie du processus de réchauffement actuel. Elles sont l’objet d’une attention médiatique constante. Pourtant elles furent souvent absentes de la Planète, elles apparurent plusieurs fois et disparurent autant de fois au cours de l’histoire géologique, le plus souvent suivant des modalités différentes à l’échelle temporelle et spatiale.

Il n’est pas possible ici de retracer la longue histoire des glaces qui commence au Précambrien, au moins à la transition Archéen et Protérozoïque (avec la glaciation huronienne, il y a environ 2,4 Ga, pour l’échelle détaillée des temps géologiques voir ici, et ci-dessous (Fig. 1) pour une version simplifiée) et se poursuit avec des aléas divers avec un recouvrement des glaces sur l’ensemble de la Planète à la fin du Néoprotérozoïque, donc y compris dans la zone équatoriale, donnant lieu au fameux ‘Snowball Earth’ ou hypothèse de la Terre boule de neige ou encore ‘Terre gelée’ (glaciation marinoenne qui a fait suite à la -ou les ? glaciation(s) sturtienne(s)- il y a 635 Ma. Ensuite viendra la glaciation Gaskiers vers 580 Ma, c’est-à-dire vers la fin du Précambrien. Cet épisode marinoen d’englacement généralisé perdura plus d’une dizaine de millions d’années avec des calottes de glace sur l’équateur (ici) et est à l’origine du nom de l’avant-dernière période du Précambrien, à savoir le Cryogénien (partie supérieure du Protérozoïque entre 850 Ma et 635 Ma, cf. Fig. 1). Entre ces deux grandes glaciations précambriennes (celles de l’huronien et du marinoen), soit sur un peu plus de 1,5 Ga  aucune autre glaciation n’a encore? été rapportée, ce qui supposerait que pendant cet intervalle de temps le climat s’est maintenu dans des conditions plutôt chaudes, avec une régulation thermique ‘sans faille’ (Ramstein, 2015). Notons également pour être complet la présence de glaciers locaux à 2,9 Ga dans l’Archéen d’Afrique du Sud (glaciation ‘pongolienne’) (ici).

Lunar Recession and the Age of the Earth: How Uniformitarianism Works

by D. Middleton, March 24, 2020 in WUWT

One of the things I love about writing for Watts Up With That, is the fact that reader comments often inspire me to research and write subsequent posts. In my recent post about the origins of the Moon, one commentator suggested that the rate of lunar recession (tidal acceleration) indicated that the Earth was much younger than 4.5 billion years old and/or somehow disproved the geological Principle of Uniformitarianism. I didn’t give much thought to my reply. I simply calculated the distance from the Earth to the Moon 1 billion and 4.5 billion years ago. The Moon is currently receding (moving away) from the Earth at a rate of about 3.8 cm/yr. This has been directly measured with lasers.

At 3.8 cm/yr, the Moon would have been 215,288 miles away from Earth a billion years ago. It is currently an average of 238,900 miles away. At 3.8 cm/yr, it still would have been 132,646 miles away 4.5 BY.

If the Moon did did originate from a collision with Earth, it would have been a lot closer to Earth 4.5 BY than 100,000 miles.

How nodules stay on top at the bottom of the sea

by Geological Society of America, January 13, 2020 in ScienceDaily

Rare metallic elements found in clumps on the deep-ocean floor mysteriously remain uncovered despite the shifting sands and sediment many leagues under the sea. Scientists now think they know why, and it could have important implications for mining these metals while preserving the strange fauna at the bottom of the ocean.

The growth of these deep-sea nodules — metallic lumps of manganese, iron, and other metals found in all the major ocean basins — is one of the slowest known geological processes. These ringed concretions, which are potential sources of rare-earth and other critical elements, grow on average just 10 to 20 millimeters every million years. Yet in one of earth science’s most enduring mysteries, they somehow manage to avoid being buried by sediment despite their locations in areas where clay accumulates at least 100 times faster than the nodules grow.

Understanding how these agglomerations of metals remain on the open sea floor could help geoscientists provide advice on accessing them for industrial use. A new study published this month in Geology will help scientists understand this process better.

“It is important that any mining of these resources is done in a way that preserves the fragile deep-sea environments in which they are found,” said lead author Adriana Dutkiewicz, an ARC Future Fellow in the School of Geosciences at The University of Sydney.

Rare-earth and other critical elements are essential for the development of technologies needed for low-carbon economies. They will play an increasingly important role for next-generation solar cells, efficient wind turbines, and rechargeable batteries that will power the renewables revolution.

Big volcanic bump unlike anything seen before found on the moon

by R.G. Andrews, December 13, 2019 in NationalGeography

Scientists scouring the lunar surface for clues to past impact rates found a bonus feature that has geologists “thoroughly confused.”

Sometime after the solar system formed 4.6 billion years ago, a projectile slammed into Earth’s youthful moon and formed the 620-mile-wide basin known as the Crisium basin. No one knows exactly when this impact happened, but for decades scientists have been trying to solve the puzzle as part of a larger debate over whether the moon and, by proxy, Earth endured a period of frenzied meteor bombardment in their early histories.

Now, scientists scouring the region say they’ve spotted a crater within the basin that appears to contain pristine impact melt, a type of volcanic rock that can act like a definitive geologic clock. If future astronauts or a robot could obtain a sample and tease out its age, that may help reveal what was happening on Earth during the primordial period when life first emerged on our planet.

And, as an added bonus, the discovery comes with an intriguing mystery: The basin also holds a geologic blister the size of Washington, D.C., that’s unlike anything else seen in the solar system. As the team reports in an upcoming paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, this volcanic lump appears to have been inflated and cracked by peculiar underground magmatic activity that the researchers can’t currently explain.

“I’m thoroughly confused by it,” says Clive Neal, an expert in lunar geology at the University of Notre Dame who was not involved with the new research.