New Geology Articles Published Online Ahead of Print in November

Boulder, Colo., USA: Article topics and locations include stalagmites from Soreq Cave, Israel: Hadean zircon; the eolian stratigraphic record of environmental change through geological time; and waterfalls in the San Gabriel Mountains, California. These Geology articles are online at .

Bedrock gorge incision via anthropogenic meander cutoff
Adrian M. Bender
Abstract: Bedrock river-gorge incision represents a fundamental landscape-shaping process, but a dearth of observational data at >10 yr timescales impedes understanding of gorge formation. I quantify 102 yr rates and processes of gorge incision using historical records, field observations, and topographic and image analysis of a human-caused bedrock meander cutoff along the North Fork Fortymile River in Alaska (USA). Miners cut off the meander in 1900 CE, abruptly lowering local base level by 6 m and forcing narrowing and steepening of the channel across a knickpoint that rapidly incised upstream. Tectonic quiescence, consistent rock erosivity, and low millennial erosion rates provide ideal boundary conditions for this 10 2 yr gorge-formation experiment. Initial fast knickpoint propagation (23 m/yr; 1900–1903 CE) slowed (4 m/yr; 1903–1981 CE) to diffusion (1981–2019 CE) as knickpoint slope decreased, yielding an ~350-m-long, 6-m-deep gorge within the pre–1900 CE channel. Today, diffusion dominates incision of a 500-m-long knickzone upstream of the gorge, where sediment transport likely limits ongoing adjustments to the anthropogenic cutoff. Results elucidate channel width, slope, discharge, and sediment dynamics consistent with a gradual transition from detachment- to transport-limited incision in fluvial adjustment to local base-level lowering.
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Water in omphacite fingerprints the thermal history of eclogites

Peilin Jiang; Hanyong Liu; Henrik Skogby; Ren-Xu Chen; Xiaozhi Yang
Abstract: Omphacite is a diagnostic mineral of high- and ultrahigh-pressure rocks, and its association with garnet is characteristic of eclogites from subduction-related massifs and volcano-entrained xenoliths. Omphacite can accommodate significant amounts of water as structurally bound hydroxyl (OH) groups, and is able to convey water into Earth’s interior. We show, for the first time, experimental evidence that the infrared absorption patterns of water in omphacite are temperature sensitive. This provides a new framework for discriminating water in natural omphacite equilibrated at different temperatures. We also demonstrate that in low-temperature omphacite, the integral absorbance ratio between the infrared OH absorption bands at 3620 cm–1 and 3450 cm–1 is linearly related to temperature. Water in omphacite of massif eclogites records the temperature of OH equilibrium, allowing reconstruction of the fluid-involved thermal history and tectonics of rock evolution.
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Holocene wet episodes recorded by magnetic minerals in stalagmites from Soreq Cave, Israel
Yuval Burstyn; Ron Shaar; Jonathan Keinan; Yael Ebert; Avner Ayalon ...
Abstract: This study demonstrates the feasibility of speleothem magnetism as a paleo-hydrology proxy in speleothems growing in semi-arid conditions. Soil-derived magnetic particles in speleothems retain valuable information on the physicochemical conditions of the overlying soil, and changes in bedrock hydrology. Yet, the link between magnetic and isotopic proxies of speleothems has been only partly established. We reveal strong coupling between the inflow of magnetic particles (quantified using the magnetic flux index, IRMflux) and δ13C in two Holocene speleothems from Soreq Cave (Israel). The stalagmite record spans from ca. 9.7 to ca. 5.4 ka, capturing the warm-humid conditions associated with the early Holocene and the transition to mid-Holocene wet-dry cycles. Extremely low IRMflux during the early Holocene, indicating minimal contribution from the overlying soil, is accompanied by anomalously high δ 13C (approaching bedrock values) hypothesized to be caused by high rainfall and soil erosion. By contrast, IRMflux during the mid-Holocene covaries with the saw-tooth cyclicity of δ13C and δ 18O, interpreted as rapid fluctuations in rainfall amount. The peaks in IRMflux precede the negative (wet) δ13C peaks by ~60–120 yr. The apparent lag is explained as a rapid physical translocation of overlying soil particles via groundwater (high IRM flux) as a response to increasing rainfall, compared with slower soil organic matter turnover rates (10–102 yr).
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Hadean zircon formed due to hydrated ultramafic protocrust melting
Anastassia Y. Borisova; Anne Nédélec; Nail R. Zagrtdenov; Michael J. Toplis; Wendy A. Bohrson ...
Abstract: Hadean zircons, from the Jack Hills (Western Australia) and other localities, are currently the only window into the earliest terrestrial felsic crust, the formation of which remains enigmatic. Based upon new experimental results, generation of such early crust has been hypothesized to involve the partial melting of hydrated peridotite interacting with basaltic melt at low pressure (<10 km), but it has yet to be demonstrated that such liquids can indeed crystallize zircons comparable to Jack Hills zircon. We used thermodynamic and geochemical modeling to test this hypothesis. The predicted zircon saturation temperatures of <750 °C, together with the model zircon Th, U, Nb, Hf, Y, and rare earth element (REE) contents at 700 °C, δ18OVSMOW (Vienna standard mean ocean water) signatures, and co-crystallizing mineral assemblage were compared to those of the Jack Hills zircon. This comparison was favorable with respect to crystallization temperature, most trace-element contents, and mineral inclusions in zircon. The discrepancy in δ18O VSMOW signatures may be explained by hotter conditions of Hadean protocrust hydration. Our work supports the idea that felsic magma generation at shallow depths involving a primordial weathered ultramafic protocrust and local basaltic intrusions is indeed a viable mechanism for the formation of felsic crust on early Earth.
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Mississippian southern Laurentia tuffs came from a northern Gondwana arc
Hepeng Tian; Majie Fan; Victor A. Valencia; Kevin Chamberlain; Robert J. Stern ...
Abstract: A Paleozoic arc that formed by southward subduction of the Rheic oceanic plate beneath northern Gondwana has long been inferred, but its history and geochemical signatures remain poorly understood. New U-Pb ages, juvenile ε Hf signatures, and trace-element composition data of young zircons from tuffs at two southern Laurentia sites indicate their derivation from a continental arc that was active from ca. 328 to ca. 317 Ma and permit correlation of sedimentary sequences 800 km apart in southern Laurentia. These include the Stanley tuffs in the Ouachita Mountains of southeastern Oklahoma and southwestern Arkansas and the newly discovered Barnett tuff in the subsurface of the Midland Basin in west Texas (USA). The Barnett tuff has a zircon chemical abrasion–isotope dilution–thermal ionization mass spectrometry U-Pb date of 327.8 ± 0.8 Ma, similar to the oldest Stanley tuff in the Ouachita Mountains. Zircon Hf isotope depleted mantle model ages further suggest that the source was a continental arc on basement with both Grenville and Pan-African affinities, pointing to northern Gondwana or peri-Gondwana terranes. The new data link the tuffs to granitoids (326 Ma) of the Maya block in southern Mexico, which was part of northern Gondwana. Correlation of the Stanley-Barnett tuffs across southern Laurentia suggests the likely presence of Mississippian tuffs over a broad region in southern Laurentia, and their usefulness for constraining absolute ages of basin fills and characterizing the Gondwanan arc.
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Eolian stratigraphic record of environmental change through geological time
G.I.E. Cosgrove; L. Colombera; N.P. Mountney
Abstract: The terrestrial sedimentary record provides a valuable archive of how ancient depositional systems responded to and recorded changes in Earth’s atmosphere, biosphere, and geosphere. However, the record of these environmental changes in eolian sedimentary successions is poorly constrained and largely unquantified. Our study presents the first global-scale, quantitative investigation of the architecture of eolian systems through geological time via analysis of 55 case studies of eolian successions. Eolian deposits accumulating (1) under greenhouse conditions, (2) in the presence of vascular plants and grasses, and (3) in rapidly subsiding basins associated with the rifting of supercontinents are represented by significantly thicker eolian dune-set, sand-sheet, and interdune architectural elements. Pre-vegetation eolian systems are also associated with more frequent interactions with non-eolian environments. The interplay of these forcings has resulted in dune-set thicknesses that tend to be smallest and largest in Proterozoic and Mesozoic successions, respectively. In the Proterozoic, the absence of sediment-binding plant roots rendered eolian deposits susceptible to post-depositional wind deflation and reworking by fluvial systems, whereby highly mobile channels reworked contiguous eolian deposits. During the Mesozoic, humid greenhouse conditions (associated with relatively elevated water tables) and high rates of basin subsidence (associated with the breakup of Pangea) favored the rapid transfer of eolian sediment beneath the erosional baseline. The common presence of vegetation promoted accumulation of stabilizing eolian systems. These factors acted to limit post-depositional reworking. Eolian sedimentary deposits record a fingerprint of major environmental changes in Earth history: climate, continental configuration, tectonics, and land-plant evolution.
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Solid as a rock: Tectonic control of graben extension and dike propagation
S. Kolzenburg; J. Kubanek; M. Dirscherl; C.W. Hamilton; E. Hauber ...
Abstract: The 2014–2015 CE rift event associated with the Bárðarbunga eruption at Holuhraun, Iceland, offers a unique opportunity to study the spatial and temporal evolution of a rift graben. We present the first four-dimensional (three-dimensional plus time) monitoring of the formation and evolution of a graben during active magma transport using a suite of digital elevation models spanning from shortly before the eruption throughout 6 months of magma transport and up to 4.5 years after the eruption. This multiscale data set enables investigations of how magma supply and eruption dynamics affect tectonic structures that feed eruptions. After formation (time scale of a few days), the graben is remarkably stable throughout the eruption and for years beyond. It is unaffected by large changes in eruptive activity and effusion and seismicity rates within the plumbing system. These data document that (1) there was no direct feedback between eruptive dynamics and graben topography, and (2) graben formation is near instantaneous on tectonic time scales. These results challenge the overarching role ascribed to magma transport in recent studies of tectonomagmatic relationships in rift events, favoring regional tectonics as the fundamental driving force.
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Microstructural evidence for convection in high-silica granite
Brendan Dyck; Marian Holness
Abstract: High-silica (>70 wt% SiO2) granites (HSGs) are critical carriers of tin, copper, and other melt-incompatible elements, yet much remains unknown about the mechanisms responsible for their formation. One of the key issues is the apparent lack of evidence for crystal-melt segregation (e.g., modal layering), without which little can be inferred about the dynamics (or lack thereof) of crystallizing HSGs. We examined the crystallographic orientation relationships of clustered quartz crystals from the 300-m-thick Bobbejaankop sill, Bushveld Complex, South Africa. We report an inward increase in the number density and size of quartz clusters toward the central horizon of the sill, coinciding with a significant increase in concentrations of tin, copper, and tungsten. The majority of crystal pairs within each cluster exhibit coincident-site lattice orientation relationships, representing low grain-boundary energy configurations. These clusters must have formed by synneusis in a magmatic environment where crystals could have moved freely, rotating into low-energy orientations on contact. We argue that this not only demonstrates that 100-m-scale crystal-poor and liquid-rich regions can be present in bodies of HSG, but also that such bodies can undergo long-lived convection during crystallization, driven by downwards movement of crystal-rich plumes at the roof, without significant crystal-melt segregation. This dynamic behavior provides a mechanism to homogenize major-element distribution across HSGs and to concentrate highly incompatible and economic elements into central mineralized horizons.
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Eocene fault-controlled fluid flow and mineralization in the Paradox Basin, United States
Lydia R. Bailey; Jason Kirk; Sidney R. Hemming; Robert W. Krantz; Peter W. Reiners
Abstract: Sedimentary rocks of the Paradox Basin of the Colorado Plateau (southwestern USA) record widespread manifestations of paleo–fluid flow and fluid-rock reactions including Cu, U-V, and Fe-Mn mineral deposits, Si and Ca metasomatism, hydrocarbon accumulations, and bleached sandstones. Many of these are spatially associated with faults. Here we show evidence for a widespread phase of fault-related fluid migration and mineralization at 41–48 Ma in the Paradox Basin. We measured K-Ar dates of multiple size fractions of clay-rich fault gouge, yielding statistically overlapping dates of authigenic (1Md) illite for the Salt Valley (47.0 ± 3.0 Ma), Kane Springs (47.7 ± 3.8 Ma), Cliffdweller (43.4 ± 4.6 Ma), Courthouse (41.9 ± 2.3 Ma), Lisbon Valley (45.3 ± 0.9 Ma), and GTO (48.1 ± 2.6 Ma) faults. The latter two have an illite Rb-Sr isochron age of 50.9 ± 3.5 Ma, and fault-adjacent bornite has a Re-Os isochron age of 47.5 ± 1.5 Ma. Authigenic illite from a paleo–oil reservoir near the Courthouse fault formed from the interaction of reduced fluids with oxidized red-bed sandstones at 41.1 ± 2.5 Ma. The Moab and Keystone faults have older authigenic illite ages of 59.1 ± 5.7 Ma and 65.2 ± 1.0 Ma, respectively. Our results show a close temporal relationship between fault gouge formation, red-bed bleaching, and Cu mineralization during an enigmatic time interval, raising questions about drivers of Eocene fluid flow.
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Morphologic signatures of autogenic waterfalls: A case study in the San Gabriel Mountains, California
Erika L. Groh; Joel S. Scheingross
Abstract: Waterfalls can form due to external perturbation of river base level, lithologic heterogeneity, and internal feedbacks (i.e., autogenic dynamics). While waterfalls formed by lithologic heterogeneity and external perturbation are well documented, there is a lack of criteria with which to identify autogenic waterfalls, thereby limiting the ability to assess the influence of autogenic waterfalls on landscape evolution. We propose that autogenic waterfalls evolve from bedrock bedforms known as cyclic steps and therefore form as a series of steps with spacing and height set primarily by channel slope. We identified 360 waterfalls split between a transient and steady-state portion of the San Gabriel Mountains in California, USA. Our results show that while waterfalls have different spatial distributions in the transient and steady-state landscapes, waterfalls in both landscapes tend to form at slopes >3%, coinciding with the onset of Froude supercritical flow, and the waterfall height to spacing ratio in both landscapes increases with slope, consistent with cyclic step theory and flume experiments. We suggest that in unglaciated mountain ranges with relatively uniform rock strength, individual waterfalls are predominately autogenic in origin, while the spatial distribution of waterfalls may be set by external perturbations.
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The influence of off-fault deformation zones on the near-fault distribution of coseismic landslides
Colin K. Bloom; Andrew Howell; Timothy Stahl; Chris Massey; Corinne Singeisen
Abstract: Coseismic landslides are observed in higher concentrations around surface-rupturing faults. This observation has been attributed to a combination of stronger ground motions and increased rock mass damage closer to faults. Past work has shown it is difficult to separate the influences of rock mass damage from strong ground motions on landslide occurrence. We measured coseismic off-fault deformation (OFD) zone widths (treating them as a proxy for areas of more intense rock mass damage) using high-resolution, three-dimensional surface displacements from the 2016 M w 7.8 Kaikōura earthquake in New Zealand. OFD zones vary in width from ~50 m to 1500 m over the ~180 km length of ruptures analyzed. Using landslide densities from a database of 29,557 Kaikōura landslides, we demonstrate that our OFD zone captures a higher density of coseismic landslide incidence than generic “distance to fault rupture” within ~650 m of surface fault ruptures. This result suggests that the effects of rock mass damage within OFD zones (including ground motions from trapped and amplified seismic waves) may contribute to near-fault coseismic landslide occurrence in addition to the influence of regional ground motions, which attenuate with distance from the fault. The OFD zone represents a new path toward understanding, and planning for, the distribution of coseismic landslides around surface fault ruptures. Inclusion of estimates of fault zone width may improve landslide susceptibility models and decrease landslide risk.
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Pyrrhotite–silicate melt partitioning of rhenium and the deep rhenium cycle in subduction zone
Shuo Xue; Yuan Li
Abstract: The Re-Os isotopic system serves as an important tracer of recycled crust in Earth’s deep mantle because of the large Re/Os ratios and time-integrated enrichment of radiogenic Os in Earth’s crust. However, the Re distribution in Earth’s known reservoirs is mass imbalanced, and the behavior of Re during subduction remains little understood. We performed laboratory experiments to determine the partition coefficients of Re between pyrrhotite and silicate melt (DRepo/sm) at 950–1080 °C, 1–3 GPa, and oxygen fugacities (in log units relative to the fayalite-magnetite-quartz [FMQ] buffer) of FMQ –1.3 to FMQ +2. The obtained DRepo/sm values are 200–25,000, which increase with decreasing oxygen fugacity and the total iron content (FeOtot) of silicate melt but decrease with increasing temperature or decreasing pressure. Applying DRepo/sm to constrain the behavior of Re during slab melting demonstrates that slab melts contribute minimal Re to the sub-arc mantle, with most Re dissolved in sulfides subducted into Earth’s deep mantle. Deep storage of recycled oceanic basalts and sediments can explain the mass imbalance of Re in Earth’s primitive mantle, depleted mantle, and crust.
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Identifying crystal accumulation and melt extraction during formation of high-silica granite
Tian-Yu Lu; Zhen-Yu He; Reiner Klemd
Abstract: High-silica (<70 wt% SiO2) magmas are usually believed to form via shallow crustal–level fractional crystallization of intermediate magmas. However, the broad applicability of this model is controversial, because the required crystal-melt separation processes have rarely been documented globally up to now. The ca. 50 Ma Nyemo composite pluton of the Gangdese batholith belt in southern Tibet, which comprises intrusive rocks with intermediate- to high-silica compositions (65–78 wt%), offers a unique opportunity for substantiating the coexistence of extracted melts and complementary silicic cumulates in one of Earth’s most complete transcrustal silicic magmatic systems. The Nyemo pluton intrusive rocks exhibit similar zircon Hf isotopic compositional ranges (mean ε Hf(t) = +5.7 to +8.3), suggesting a common, non-radiogenic magma source with crustal assimilation in the deep crust. Yet, these rocks have distinct geochemical characteristics. High-silica miarolitic and rapakivi granites are strongly depleted in Ba, Sr, and Eu, and their zircon trace elements show extremely low Eu/Eu* and Dy/Yb. In contrast, monzogranite is relatively enriched in Ba and Sr with minor Eu anomalies, and the zircon trace elements are characterized by relatively high Eu/Eu* and Dy/Yb. Therefore, we propose that the high-silica granites represent highly fractionated melt extracted from a mush reservoir at unusually low storage pressure (~99–119 MPa), and that the monzogranite constitutes the complementary residual silicic cumulates.
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Evaluating preservation bias in the continental growth record against the monazite archive
Jacob A. Mulder; Peter A. Cawood
Abstract: Most recent models of continental growth are based on large global compilations of detrital zircon ages, which preserve a distinctly episodic record of crust formation over billion-year timescales. However, it remains unclear whether this uneven distribution of zircon ages reflects a true episodicity in the generation of continental crust through time or is an artifact of the selective preservation of crust isolated in the interior of collisional orogens. We address this issue by analyzing a new global compilation of monazite ages (n >100,000), which is comparable in size, temporal resolution, and spatial distribution to the zircon continental growth record and unambiguously records collisional orogenesis. We demonstrate that the global monazite and zircon age distributions are strongly correlated throughout most of Earth history, implying a link between collisional orogenesis and the preserved record of continental growth. Our findings support the interpretation that the continental crust provides a preservational, rather than generational, archive of crustal growth.
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Uneven spatial sampling distorts reconstructions of Phanerozoic seawater temperature
Lewis A. Jones; Kilian Eichenseer
Abstract: Paleotemperature proxy records are widely used to reconstruct the global climate throughout the Phanerozoic and to test macroevolutionary hypotheses. However, the spatial distribution of these records varies through time. This is problematic because heat is unevenly distributed across Earth’s surface. Consequently, heterogeneous spatial sampling of proxy data has the potential to bias reconstructed temperature curves. We evaluated the spatiotemporal evolution of sampling using a compilation of Phanerozoic δ18O data. We tested the influence of variable spatial coverage on global estimates of paleotemperature by sampling a steep “modern-type” latitudinal temperature gradient and a flattened “Eocene-type” gradient, based on the spatial distribution of δ18 O samples. We show that global paleotemperature is overestimated in ~70% of Phanerozoic stages. Perceived climatic trends for some intervals might be artifactually induced by shifts in paleolatitudinal sampling, with equatorward shifts in sampling concurring with warming trends, and poleward shifts concurring with cooling trends. Yet, the magnitude of some climatic perturbations might also be underestimated. For example, the observed Ordovician cooling trend may be underestimated due to an equatorward shift in sampling. Our findings suggest that while proxy records are vital for reconstructing Earth’s paleotemperature in deep time, consideration of the spatial nature of these data is crucial to improving these reconstructions.
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Global-scale emergence of continental crust during the Mesoarchean–early Neoarchean
Wei Wang; Peter A. Cawood; Christopher J. Spencer; Manoj K. Pandit; Jun-Hong Zhao ...
Abstract: The timing of the emergence of subaerial landmasses is equivocally constrained as post-Archean and continues to be a much-debated issue. In this study, we document exceptionally 18O-depleted (δ 18O < 4.7‰) Mesoarchean to early Neoarchean magmatism in India that shows a similarity with the coeval low-δ18O magmas reported from Australia, South America, and northern China. Such global-scale low-δ18O magmatism would require high-temperature meteoric water–rock interaction in the uppermost crust synchronous with magma generation, necessitating the emergence of a substantial volume of the continental crust. The timing of this low-δ18O magmatism coincides with the development of extensive, subaerial large igneous provinces, a downward shift in δ18O and Δ17O values in pelitic rocks, the rise of normalized 87Sr/86Sr in seawater, and an intermittent upsurge in the proportion of atmospheric oxygen. We propose that the emergence of substantial volumes of continental crust initiated at ca. 3.2 Ga and peaked at 2.8–2.6 Ga, facilitating the generation of globally distributed low-δ18O magmas, and this event can be linked to the first appearance of atmospheric oxygen.
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Centennial to millennial variability of greenhouse climate across the mid-Cenomanian event
Chao Ma; Linda A. Hinnov; James S. Eldrett; Stephen R. Meyers; Steven C. Bergman ...
Abstract: Centennial- to millennial-scale climate variations are often attributed to solar forcing or internal climate system variability, but recognition of such variations in the deep-time paleoclimate record is extremely rare. We present an exceptionally well-preserved, millimeter-scale laminated marlstone from a succession of precession-driven limestone-marlstone couplets deposited in the Western Interior Seaway (North America) immediately preceding and during the Cretaceous mid-Cenomanian event (ca. 96.5 Ma). Sedimentological, geochemical, and micropaleontological data indicate that individual pairs of light-dark laminae record alternations in the extent of water-column mixing and oxygenation. Principal component analysis of X-ray fluorescence element counts and a grayscale scan of a continuous thin section through the marlstone reveal variations with 80–100 yr, 200–230 yr, 350–500 yr, ~1650 yr, and 4843 yr periodicities. A substantial fraction of the data indicates an anoxic bottom water variation with a pronounced 10,784 yr cycle. The centennial to millennial variations are reminiscent of those found in Holocene total solar irradiance variability, and the 10,784 yr anoxia cycle may be a manifestation of semi-precession-influenced Tethyan oxygen minimum zone waters entering the seaway.
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The ubiquitous creeping segments on oceanic transform faults
Pengcheng Shi; Meng (Matt) Wei; Robert A. Pockalny
Abstract: Oceanic transform faults are a significant component of the global plate boundary system and are well known for generating fewer and smaller earthquakes than expected. Detailed studies at a handful of sites support the hypothesis that an abundance of creeping segments is responsible for most of the observed deficiency of earthquakes on those faults. We test this hypothesis on a global scale. We relocate Mw ⩾5 earthquakes on 138 oceanic transform faults around the world and identify creeping segments on these faults. We demonstrate that creeping segments occur on almost all oceanic transform faults, which could explain their deficiency of earthquakes. We also find that most of the creeping segments are not associated with any large-scale geological structure such as a fault step-over, indicating that along-strike variation of fault zone properties may be the main reason for their existence.
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Crustal fluids cause strong Lu-Hf fractionation and Hf-Nd-Li isotopic provinciality in the mantle of continental subduction zones
Dominik Gudelius; Sonja Aulbach; Hans-Michael Seitz; Roberto Braga
Abstract: Metasomatized mantle wedge peridotites exhumed within high-pressure terranes of continental collision zones provide unique insights into crust-mantle interaction and attendant mass transfer, which are critical to our understanding of terrestrial element cycles. Such peridotites occur in high-grade gneisses of the Ulten Zone in the European Alps and record metasomatism by crustal fluids at 330 Ma and high-pressure conditions (2.0 GPa, 850 °C) that caused a transition from coarse-grained, garnet-bearing to fine-grained, amphibole-rich rocks. We explored the effects of crustal fluids on canonically robust Lu-Hf peridotite isotope signatures in comparison with fluid-sensitive trace elements and Nd-Li isotopes. Notably, we found that a Lu-Hf pseudo-isochron is created by a decrease in bulk-rock 176Lu/177Hf from coarse- to fine-grained peridotite that is demonstrably caused by heavy rare earth element (HREE) loss during fluid-assisted, garnet-consuming, amphibole-forming reactions accompanied by enrichment in fluid-mobile elements and the addition of unradiogenic Nd. Despite close spatial relationships, some peridotite lenses record more intense fluid activity that causes complete garnet breakdown and high field strength element (HFSE) addition along with the addition of crust-derived unradiogenic Hf, as well as distinct chromatographic light REE (LREE) fractionation. We suggest that the observed geochemical and isotopic provinciality between peridotite lenses reflects different positions relative to the crustal fluid source at depth. This interpretation is supported by Li isotopes: inferred proximal peridotites show light δ 7Li due to strong kinetic Li isotope fractionation (–4.7–2.0‰) that accompanies Li enrichment, whereas distal peridotites show Li contents and δ7Li similar to those of the depleted mantle (1.0–7.2‰). Thus, Earth’s mantle can acquire significant Hf-Nd-Li-isotopic heterogeneity during locally variable ingress of crustal fluids in continental subduction zones.
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Lithium isotopic composition of soil pore water: Responses to evapotranspiration
Zhewen Xu; Tao Li; Gaojun Li; David W. Hedding; Yunqiang Wang ...
Abstract: Lithium isotopes show great potential to trace Earth surface processes due to the large mass discrimination between 6Li and 7Li associated with clay uptake. However, factors controlling the Li isotopic composition (δ7Li) of river water, especially those with a water-bedrock δ7Li difference higher than that of the equilibrium fractionation associated with clay formation (ΔW-C), have not yet been fully resolved. Traditional interpretation involves the Rayleigh distillation, but it unrealistically separates the stage of clay formation from that of silicate dissolution using fractionation factors that are much lower than laboratories can constrain. We propose an in situ mechanism that simulates high δ7Li by evapotranspiration. A model with coupled mineral dissolution and clay precipitation shows that evaporative enrichment of pore-water Li progressively increases the incorporation of Li into clays with light δ 7Li, resulting in higher δ7Li values in the residual water than ΔW-C. We also provide evidence from the Chinese Loess Plateau, where an evaporative effect readily explains the observed δ7Li. The influence of evapotranspiration on riverine δ 7Li implies that changes in aridity may partly explain the variations of seawater δ7Li. The same principle may also apply to other stable isotopic systems whereby incorporation into secondary precipitates controls the isotopic fractionation.
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Widespread glasses generated by cometary fireballs during the late Pleistocene in the Atacama Desert, Chile
Peter H. Schultz; R. Scott Harris; Sebastián Perroud; Nicolas Blanco; Andrew J. Tomlinson
Abstract: Twisted and folded silicate glasses (up to 50 cm across) concentrated in certain areas across the Atacama Desert near Pica (northern Chile) indicate nearly simultaneous (seconds to minutes) intense airbursts close to Earth’s surface near the end of the Pleistocene. The evidence includes mineral decompositions that require ultrahigh temperatures, dynamic modes of emplacement for the glasses, and entrained meteoritic dust. Thousands of identical meteoritic grains trapped in these glasses show compositions and assemblages that resemble those found exclusively in comets and CI group primitive chondrites. Combined with the broad distribution of the glasses, the Pica glasses provide the first clear evidence for a cometary body (or bodies) exploding at a low altitude. This occurred soon after the arrival of proto-Archaic hunter-gatherers and around the time of rapid climate change in the Southern Hemisphere.
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Zircon (U-Th)/He thermochronology of Grand Canyon resolves 1250 Ma unroofing at the Great Unconformity and <20 Ma canyon carving
Olivia G. Thurston; William R. Guenthner; Karl E. Karlstrom; Jason W. Ricketts; Matthew T. Heizler ...
Abstract: Our study used zircon (U-Th)/He (ZHe) thermochronology to resolve cooling events of Precambrian basement below the Great Unconformity surface in the eastern Grand Canyon, United States. We combined new ZHe data with previous thermochronometric results to model the <250 °C thermal history of Precambrian basement over the past >1 Ga. Inverse models of ZHe date-effective uranium (eU) concentration, a relative measure of radiation damage that influences closure temperature, utilize He diffusion and damage annealing and suggest that the main phase of Precambrian cooling to <200 °C was between 1300 and 1250 Ma. This result agrees with mica and potassium feldspar 40Ar/39Ar thermochronology showing rapid post–1400 Ma cooling, and both are consistent with the 1255 Ma depositional age for the Unkar Group. At the young end of the timescale, our data and models are also highly sensitive to late-stage reheating due to burial beneath ~3–4 km of Phanerozoic strata prior to ca. 60 Ma; models that best match observed date-eU trends show maximum temperatures of 140–160 °C, in agreement with apatite (U-Th)/He and fission-track data. Inverse models also support multi-stage Cenozoic cooling, with post–20 Ma cooling from ~80 to 20 °C reflecting partial carving of the eastern Grand Canyon, and late rapid cooling indicated by 3–7 Ma ZHe dates over a wide range of high eU. Our ZHe data resolve major basement exhumation below the Great Unconformity during the Mesoproterozoic (1300–1250 Ma), and “young” (20–0 Ma) carving of Grand Canyon, but show little sensitivity to Neoproterozoic and Cambrian basement unroofing components of the composite Great Unconformity.
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Lithosphere–asthenosphere interactions beneath northeast China and the origin of its intraplate volcanism
Anqi Zhang; Zhen Guo; Juan Carlos Afonso; Heather Handley; Hongkun Dai ...
Abstract: Northeast China hosts one of the largest Cenozoic intraplate volcanic regions in the world. However, the mechanisms that generate the volcanism, its spatial-temporal distribution, and compositional signatures remain highly debated due to the lack of high-resolution images of the mantle’s thermochemical structure. We jointly inverted new surface-wave dispersion data, surface heat flow, geoid height, and elevation data to image the fine-scale thermal and compositional structures beneath northeast China and infer regions of partial melting in the mantle. Our model reveals a complex circulation pattern in the asthenosphere and a highly variable lithospheric structure. Combining predictions from our model with independent geochemical data from recent basaltic volcanism, we demonstrate that the generation, location, and composition of intraplate volcanism in this region are controlled by the interaction between shallow asthenospheric circulation and lithospheric thickness. The modeling approach and correlations between basaltic composition and mantle state identified in our study are globally applicable to assessing mantle conditions over time in other continental regions.
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Oceanic strike-slip faults represent active fluid conduits in the abyssal sub-seafloor
Christian Hensen; Florian Scholz; Volker Liebetrau; Norbert Kaul; Marianne Nuzzo ...
Abstract: We present pore-fluid geochemistry and heat-flow data along the SWIM1 fault in the Horseshoe Abyssal Plain (northeastern Atlantic Ocean). The SWIM1 fault is part of the transcurrent plate boundary between Africa and Eurasia and cuts through as much as 5-km-thick sediments overlying >140 Ma oceanic lithosphere. In a number of places, restraining segments (as long as 15 km) of the SWIM1 fault generate anticlines (positive flower structures) that protrude as ~100-m-high hills above the abyssal plain. Heat flow and gradients of dissolved constituents in pore water are enhanced at these seafloor highs. Transport-reaction modeling confirms that slow advection of deep-seated fluids, depleted in Mg and enriched in Sr and CH4, can explain the observations. The geochemical signature is similar to the one observed at deep-sea mud volcanoes located eastward on the SWIM1 fault. The upward-migrating fluids have interacted with carbonate rocks at maximum 5 km depth, which represent the oldest sedimentary unit on top of the basement. We argue that deep-rooted fluids can generally be mobilized and transported upward along flower structures that formed in restraining-bend segments of long strike-slip faults. Such tectonic settings represent largely unrecognized corridors for mass exchange between lithosphere and ocean.
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For Immediate Release
1 December 2021
GSA Release No. 21-69

Kea Giles