|About this image: Superdeep diamonds from Brazil. Credit: Michael Walter. News feature.
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Superdeep Diamonds Provide Evidence for a Melting Barrier to Deep Carbon Subduction
Carbon is cycled from Earth’s surface to its depths, emerging through the crust from volcanoes, and descending to the mantle in subducting ocean floor. But how far down is the carbon subducted? In a letter by Andrew Thomson, Michael Walter, Simon Kohn, and Richard Brooker (University of Bristol, UK) published in Nature, the authors propose that most carbon goes no deeper than about 300 to 500 kilometers, at which point a carbon barrier limits carbon recycling into the deeper mantle. Read more...
How Earth’s Moon Formed: New Oxygen Isotope Measurements Change Model
Earth’s moon likely formed in a giant impact event approximately 4.5 billion years ago. A Mars-sized object known as Theia (“mother of the Moon”) crossed into Earth’s orbit, crashing into the young Earth. The debris left over from that collision eventually coalesced and formed the Moon. If this giant impact theory is correct, there should be evidence recorded in both terrestrial and lunar rocks. A new analysis of lunar samples, collected during the Apollo 12, 15, and 17 missions, by DCO’s Ed Young (University of California Los Angeles, USA) and colleagues backs up the giant impact theory, and is published in Science. However, unlike some previous studies, which suggest Theia struck Earth with a glancing blow, the new work implies a high-energy, high-angular-momentum impact. Read more...
Robert Hazen Featured in NOVA's Life's Rocky Start
Four and a half billion years ago, the young Earth was a hellish place—a seething chaos of meteorite impacts, volcanoes belching noxious gases, and lightning flashing through a thin, torrid atmosphere. Then, in a process that has puzzled scientists for decades, life emerged. But how? NOVA joins DCO Executive Director Robert Hazen as he journeys around the globe. From an ancient Moroccan market to the Australian Outback, he advances a startling and counterintuitive idea—that the rocks beneath our feet were not only essential to jump-starting life, but that microbial life helped give birth to hundreds of minerals we know and depend on today. It's a theory of the co-evolution of Earth and life that is reshaping the grand-narrative of our planet’s story. Read more...
Witwatersrand Diamonds Suggest Plate Tectonics Started 3.5 Billion Years Ago
Earth is the only planet in our solar system with plate tectonics. As a result, Earth’s crust is subject to constant turnover, being created at plate boundaries and subducted at plate margins around the world. It is thanks to plate tectonics that we have a nitrogen-rich atmosphere, and consequently life. Plate tectonics also changed Earth’s interior over time, introducing oxygen and other volatiles to the mantle. The onset of plate tectonics, therefore, is a landmark moment in the history of our planet. In a new paper published in Nature Geoscience, Katie Smart (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa) and colleagues present analyses of three diamonds derived from 3 billion year old sediments from the Kaapvaal craton in South Africa, supporting the hypothesis that plate tectonics began approximately 3.5 billion years ago. Read more...
Ambrym: A Top Three Worldwide Volcanic Emitter of Deep Carbon Dioxide and Other Magma-Derived Volatiles
Improved quantification of the global emissions of deep carbon through volcanism is one key objective of the Deep Carbon Observatory’s DECADE (Deep Carbon Degassing) initiative supported by the Reservoirs and Fluxes Community. One quantification approach measures deep carbon degassing in very active but as yet undocumented remote volcanic regions, the Vanuatu island arc in the southwest Pacific, for example. In a recent issue of the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, an international team led by DECADE board of directors members Patrick Allard (IPGP, France), Alessandro Aiuppa (Palermo University, Italy) and Hiroshi Shinohara (JSG, Japan) demonstrated that the Ambrym basaltic volcano in central Vanuatu arc ranks among the top-three known persistent emitters of volcanic gas at the global scale. Read more...
Scientists Detect Deep Carbon Emissions Associated with Continental Rifting
Scientists believe carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere from Earth's interior takes place mostly via degassing from active volcanoes. Carbon dioxide can also escape along faults away from active volcanic centers. However, such tectonic degassing is poorly constrained, and to date has been largely unmeasured. DCO's Tobias Fischer (University of New Mexico, USA) and colleagues conducted research to effectively study carbon emissions through fault systems in the East African Rift (EAR) in an effort to understand carbon emissions from Earth’s interior and how it affects the atmosphere. Their work is published in Nature Geoscience, and is part of a continued effort to better quantify global emissions of carbon dioxide from Earth’s interior. Read more...
DCO at the 2015 AGU Fall Meeting
DCO scientists presented over 150 scientific papers at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting in San Francisco on 14-18 December 2015. The meeting took place at the imposing Moscone Center in the heart of San Francisco, USA, and played host to nearly 24,000 Earth scientists from around the world. Read more...
New Updates from the Trail by Fire Expedition
The smell of sulphur: volcán Tacora: From the late seventeenth to the mid-twentieth century sulphur mining was flourishing in Chile. One of the most important sulphur deposits was found on the flank of Tacora volcano, the northernmost Chilean volcano, lying hard on the triple border with Peru and Bolivia. Sulphur mining on active volcanoes has been compared to hell on multiple occasions. In Chile, the miners not only had to deal with toxic gases and hard labour conditions, but also with the high altitude (>5000 m a.s.l.) and sub-zero temperatures. At Tacora, the sulphur was loaded and transported directly on a branch of the former Arica-La Paz steam-engine train line. This railway was the world's highest, with sections higher than 4800m a.s.l. Read more...
New Modeling and Visualization Initiatives Commissioned
At the end of July 2015, DCO’s Modeling and Visualization Workshop committee (Elizabeth Cottrell, Smithsonian Institution, USA; Rick Colwell, Oregon State University, USA; Isabelle Daniel, Université de Lyon, France; Richard Katz, University of Oxford, UK; Louise Kellogg, University of California Davis, USA; and Michael Walter, University of Bristol, UK) issued a call for “commissioned activities” to address goals articulated at the May 2015 DCO Modeling and Visualization Workshop. The call aimed to initiate the incorporation of carbon into modeling efforts and engage new talent in DCO’s future synthesis and public engagement efforts. Read more...
DCO Early Career Scientist Research Topic in Frontiers in Earth Sciences
As a direct outcome of the 2015 DCO Early Career Scientist Workshop, which took place 31 August – 5 September at the University of the Azores, the open access journal Frontiers in Earth Sciences has accepted a proposal to host a special research topic titled “Early Career Scientist Contributions to the Deep Carbon Observatory” Early career scientists from all four of DCO’s scientific communities (Deep Life, Deep Energy, Reservoirs and Fluxes, and Extreme Physics and Chemistry) are welcome to submit both primary research papers and review articles. Read more...
Upcoming Meetings and Workshops
62nd Annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, Tucson, Arizona, USA, 11-14 February 2016
Members of DCO's Carbon Mineral Challenge team will be at booth 104G in the Galleria of the Tucson Convention Center.
DCO Executive Committee Meeting, Washington, DC, USA, 1-2 March 2016
European Geosciences General Assembly, Vienna, Austria, 17-22 April 2016
DCO Executive Committee Meeting, Yokohama, Japan, 25 June 2016
Goldschmidt 2016, Yokohama, Japan, 26 June - 1 July 2016
There are many sessions of special interest to DCO at Goldschmidt 2016. Abstract submission deadline: 26 February 2016. View DCO sessions of interest here...
Second DCO Summer School, Yellowstone National Park, USA, 23-28 July 2016
DCO will hold its second Summer School in Yellowstone National Park from 23 - 28 July 2016. This Summer School will introduce approximately 35 students and early career researchers to the interdisciplinary concepts which are the cornerstone of DCO’s approach to understanding Earth. Application deadline: 1 March 2016.
DCO Deep Life Modeling and Visualization Fellowship
The Deep Life Modeling and Visualization (DLMV) group of the Deep Carbon
Observatory’s Deep Life Community invites applications for 3-12-month PhD student fellowships. We aim to support innovative Deep Life research ideas and groundbreaking new projects involving (1) thermodynamic modeling, (2) modeling of microbial activity and population size, and/or (3) modeling of microbial biogeography. Applicants are strongly encouraged to include a visualization component in their modeling projects that will help illustrate potential changes in microbial energetics, activity, population size, and community composition through space and/or time. Preference will be given to research descriptions that focus on life and carbon cycling in deep subsurface environments on Earth and complement or integrate well within the greater framework of the DCO modeling initiatives.
Deadline: 31 January 2016
DCO Census of Deep Life Sequencing Opportunities
Since 2011, the Deep Carbon Observatory’s Deep Life Community has sponsored the Census of Deep Life (CoDL) that has supported surveys of the diversity of microbes present in several deep continental and subseafloor environments. The first surveys (2011-2012) were conducted using 454 pyrosequencing and subsequently (2013) Illumina sequencing strategies were adopted. Through this initiative, the Deep Life Community has allowed the characterization of diversity of subsurface microbial communities at numerous sites worldwide including the subseafloor and deep continental locations from a range of geologic settings (e.g., large igneous provinces, subglacial lakes, methane hydrate-rich sediments, cratons). The Illumina platform provides increased numbers of reads for more samples at reduced cost. For DNA samples submitted to the CoDL for sequencing, proponents have the option of obtaining 400-450 nt bacterial sequences that span the V4V5 region of Bacterial and Archaeal rRNA coding regions or a greater number of reads for V6 regions that through complete overlap of forward and reverse reads allows detection of lower abundance taxa with reduced stochastic error rates. Shotgun metagenomic DNA sequencing for key samples can also be performed. This call for proposals aims to support sequencing that represents expanded analyses from ongoing Deep Life Community projects or projects that represent sites and investigators new to the DCO’s Deep Life Community.
Deadline: 31 January 2016
C-DEBI Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Fellowship Program
Fellowship proponents are invited to respond to the annual research call with proposals that will significantly advance C-DEBI's central research agenda: to investigate the subseafloor biosphere deep in sediments and the volcanic crust, and to conduct multi-disciplinary studies to develop an integrated understanding of subseafloor microbial life at the molecular, cellular, and ecosystem scales. Phase 2 of C-DEBI comprises a transition from dominantly exploration-based investigations to projects that balance discovery with hypothesis testing, data integration and synthesis, and ecosystem modeling.
Deadline: 31 January 2016
Call for IODP Scientific Ocean Drilling Proposals
The International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) explores Earth’s climate history, structure, dynamics, and deep biosphere. The D/V JOIDES Resolution is planned to operate 10 months per year in 2018 and 2019 under a long-term, global circumnavigation track based on proposal pressure. Future JR expeditions are projected to follow a path from the southwestern Pacific Ocean, through the Southern Ocean, and into the Atlantic Ocean for opportunities starting there in 2019. The JR is then expected to operate in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico starting in 2020. Although JR proposals for any region are welcomed, pre- and full proposals for these future operational areas are strongly encouraged. MSP expeditions are planned to operate once per year on average, and proposals for any ocean are welcomed. Chikyu operations will be project-based, and new proposals to use Chikyu in riser mode must be Complementary Project Proposals (with cost-sharing). IODP aims to foster joint projects with the International Continental Drilling Program (ICDP). We therefore also invite proposals that coordinate drilling on land and at sea.
Deadline: 1 April 2016
Papers recently added to the DCO publications browser
Oxygen isotopic evidence for vigorous mixing during the Moon-forming giant impact
Edward D. Young, Issaku E. Kohl, Paul H. Warren, David C. Rubie, Seth A. Jacobson, Alessandro Morbidelli
Science (2016) doi:10.1126/science.aad0525
Massive and prolonged deep carbon emissions associated with continental rifting
Hyunwoo Lee, James D. Muirhead, Tobias P. Fischer, Cynthia J. Ebinger, Simon A. Kattenhorn, Zachary D. Sharp & Gladys Kianji
Nature Geoscience (2016) doi:10.1038/ngeo2622
Slab melting as a barrier to deep carbon subduction
Andrew R. Thomson, Michael J. Walter, Simon C. Kohn & Richard A. Brooker
Nature 529, 76–79 (2016) doi:10.1038/nature16174
Early Archaean tectonics and mantle redox recorded in Witwatersrand diamonds
Katie A. Smart, Sebastian Tappe, Richard A. Stern, Susan J. Webb & Lewis D. Ashwal
Nature Geoscience (2016) doi:10.1038/ngeo2628
Prodigious emission rates and magma degassing budget of major, trace and radioactive volatile species from Ambrym basaltic volcano, Vanuatu island Arc.
P. Allard, A. Aiuppac, P. Banie, N. Métricha, A. Bertagninig, P.-J. Gauthiere, H. Shinoharah, G. Sawyeri, F. Parelloc E., Bagnatoc, B. Pelletierj, E. Garaebitik
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research (2015) doi:10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2015.10.004
Auvergne Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program, Clermont-Ferrand (France)
The Laboratoire Magmas et Volcans (LMV), research laboratory in the fields of igneous and experimental petrology, geochemistry and volcanology and the ClerVolc consortium, collaborative research program on volcanic processes invite applications for five postdoctoral fellowships on independent research of the applicant’s choosing that will fit into the research themes of these two institutions. Applicants do not need to speak French, and applications can be submitted in English.
Deadline: 31 January 2016
Scripps (USA) Postdoctoral Program
The Scripps Postdoctoral program is an annual competitive program that offers joint funding from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and extramural sources associated with specific projects that cover a broad range of research. One or more positions are given each year to new or recent doctorates in the general research areas of Oceans & Atmosphere, Biology, or Earth Science.
Deadline: 1 February 2016
Tenure-Track Assistant Professor (Isotope Geochemistry)
As part of a University-wide initiative involving the Turkana Basin Institute, the Department of Geosciences at Stony Brook University invites applications for a tenure-track Assistant Professor Faculty position in the field of Isotope Geochemistry.
Deadline: 5 February 2016
DCO in the News
Read more DCO News here.
28 January: Scientists Find Strong Evidence That the Earth Was Hit Head-On by a Mars-Sized Planet
By John Wenz for Popular Mechanics
The early solar system was, for lack of a better term, a chaotic hellscape. Everything we see today, from Mercury on out to the inner Oort Cloud, was a product of a series of collisions that accumulated into moons, asteroids, and planets. And perhaps one of the most violent blows came when a planet roughly the size of Mars smashed into a fledging planet called Earth. At the end of the cataclysmic event, two bodies were left standing: Earth itself, and a fragmentary, molten piece of the two planets that coalesced into the Moon. Read more...
28 January: A violent collision of two worlds made the Earth and moon
By Miriam Kramer for Mashable
About 4.5 billion years ago, just after the solar system formed, the relatively small planetary body that would become Earth experienced something extreme. A planetary embyo — probably about the size of Mars — called Theia collided with Earth, spinning the moon off into orbit around the nascent planet. Read more...
28 January: Rare Isotopes Offer Clues to the Chemistry of the Planet
by Eric Hand for Science
To learn about some of the grandest processes on Earth, from plant growth to climate change, researchers are weighing molecules on ever more sensitive scales. Molecules containing an unexpected isotope—carbon-13 in place of carbon-12 in carbon dioxide (CO2), say—weigh a hair more or less than their commoner counterparts and carry a wealth of information about biological or chemical processes. Those carbon isotopes, for example, are a gauge of plant productivity, because photosynthesis prefers to take up carbon-12 over its heavier cousin. Read more...
26 January 2016: Scientists Discover a New Source of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide
By JoAnna Wendel for Eos
In an African region where continental crust is pulling apart and fracturing—the East African Rift zone—the area's many faults are slowly releasing a large amount of carbon dioxide. Read more...
19 January 2016: Scientists Detect Deep Carbon Emissions Associated with Continental Rifting
Scientists at the University of New Mexico conducted research to effectively study carbon emissions through fault systems in the East African Rift (EAR) in an effort to understand carbon emissions from the Earth's interior and how it affects the atmosphere. Read more...
13 January 2016: Life and Rocks May Have Co-Evolved on Earth
By Maya Wei-Haas for Smithsonian
At a Christmas party ten years ago, an idea was brewing in Robert Hazen’s mind. Hazen was a self-proclaimed “hard core” mineral physicist at the time, and like most scientists (and players of 20 Questions), he considered mineral to be a totally separate beast from animal and vegetable. But that was soon to change. Read more...
13 January 2016: New NOVA TV Show Explores Coevolution of Rocks and Life
By Randy Showstack for Eos
Mineralogist Robert Hazen loves exploring rocks and minerals, not just because of their spectacular colors and shapes or because they form the building blocks of modern civilization, but for what they can teach us about the origin and evolution of life on Earth. Read more...
12 January 2016: Fumio Inagaki Receives 2015 Asahiko Taira International Scientific Ocean Drilling Research Prize
Fumio Inagaki was awarded the 2015 Asahiko Taira International Scientific Ocean Drilling Research Prize at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 16 December 2015 in San Francisco, Calif. The Taira Prize is a partnership between AGU and the Japan Geoscience Union (JpGU), and is made possible through a generous donation from the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Management International (IOPD-MI). The prize honors an individual for "outstanding transdisciplinary research accomplishment in ocean drilling." Read more...
6 January 2016: 'Superdeep' Diamonds Provide New Insight into Earth's Carbon Cycle
Researchers at the University of Bristol have discovered new insights into previously hidden parts of the earth's carbon cycle. The team found that carbon recycling extends into the deep mantle by plate subduction, but is still primarily constrained to upper mantle depths, above 700km. The researchers made the discovery that certain rare diamonds are formed when carbon that was sequestered from seawater into the Earth's shifting tectonic plates reacts with the mantle after the plate is subducted – a process by which it moves under another tectonic plate and sinks into the mantle as the plates converge. Read more...
5 January 2016: Global Hunt on for New Minerals
By Cole Latimer for Australian Mining
A new challenge has been launched to uncover the world’s remaining undiscovered carbon-bearing minerals. The Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) has launched the Carbon Mineral Challenge to find what it believes are around at least 145 carbon minerals yet to be discovered. Scientists at the Carnegie Institute of Washington and Purdue University Calumet used a type of analysis called Large Number of Rare Events (LNRE) modelling to formulate this prediction. Read more...