Geology

When the Bárðarbunga volcano beneath Iceland's Vatnajökull ice cap reawakened in August 2014, scientists got an opportunity to monitor how the magma flowed through cracks in the rock away from the volcano.

 Although it has a long history of eruptions, Bárðarbunga has been increasingly restless since 2005, including a dynamic period in August and September of this year, when more than 22,000 earthquakes were recorded in or around the volcano in just four weeks, due to stress being released as magma forced its way through the rock. 



Many villagers near the Cape Verde volcano will have little to return to. Joao Relvas/EPA

By David Rothery, The Open University

Around 60 volcanoes erupt in the average year. On any particular day, there are usually about 20 volcanoes erupting somewhere in the world. Naturally, they can’t all make headlines. But when there are human tragedies involved, we need to question the priorities of the news media.

The planet's largest carbon reservoir is not in permafrost or the Amazon rainforest, it is hidden in the Earth's inner core, according to what the authors of a new study in PNAS call a "provocative and speculative" finding. 

As much as two-thirds of Earth's carbon. They suggest that iron carbide, Fe7C3, provides a good match for the density and sound velocities of Earth's inner core under the relevant conditions. The model, if correct, could help resolve observations that have puzzled researchers for decades but they are not claiming it is more than it is.


An ancient, deep canyon buried along the Yarlung Tsangpo River in south Tibet, north of the eastern end of the Himalayas, has been discovered by geologists who say this ancient canyon--thousands of feet deep in places--effectively rules out a popular model used to explain how the massive and picturesque gorges of the Himalayas became so steep, so fast. 


Time is relative. What is a long time to humans is nothing to a mountain. Like humans, mountains usually burst on the scene, then they stand tall and finally age wears them down and their sharp features soften and they become grow shorter and rounder.

Not all mountains, though. The Gamburtsev Mountains in the middle of Antarctica look quite young for their age. Though the Gamburtsevs were discovered in the 1950s, they remained unexplored until government budget increases and few things left above ground to explore led scientists to fly ice-penetrating instruments over the mountains 60 years later.


Tectonic plates, which make up the outer layer of the earth, are rigid. It is giant layers of rock, after all. But that is a bit of a simplification. They are not rigid and don't fit together as nicely as we imagine, according to a new paper in Geology by Corné Kreemer, an associate professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and his colleague Richard Gordon of Rice University, which quantifies deformation of the Pacific plate and challenges the central approximation of the plate tectonic paradigm that plates are rigid. 


The "Cambrian explosion," the rapid diversification of animal life in the fossil record 530 million years ago, has by necessity remained the subjective of speculation. We know it happened, but no idea why, we simply know we wouldn't be here without it.


By Simon Redfern, University of Cambridge

How is it that Earth developed an atmosphere that made the development of life possible? A study published in the journal Nature Geoscience links the origins of Earth’s nitrogen-rich atmosphere to the same tectonic forces that drive mountain-building and volcanism on our planet. It goes some way to explaining why, compared to our nearest neighbors, Venus and Mars, Earth’s air is richer in nitrogen.

 Massive amounts of erupting lava have connected with the fall of civilizations, the destruction of supercontinents and dramatic changes in climate and ecosystems. 

Since August 31st, Bárðarbunga volcano in central Iceland has been spewing spectacular amounts of lava. A new paper finds that high mantle temperatures miles beneath the Earth's surface are essential for generating such large amounts of magma - and  Bárðarbunga volcano lies directly above the hottest portion of the North Atlantic mantle plume.



How many continents can you count on one hand? Image: Chones

By Nick Rawlinson, University of Aberdeen