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Concept: Granite


Precise dating of diamond growth is required to understand the interior workings of the early Earth and the deep carbon cycle. Here we report Sm-Nd isotope data from 26 individual garnet inclusions from 26 harzburgitic diamonds from Venetia, South Africa. Garnet inclusions and host diamonds comprise two compositional suites formed under markedly different conditions and define two isochrons, one Archaean (2.95 Ga) and one Proterozoic (1.15 Ga). The Archaean diamond suite formed from relatively cool fluid-dominated metasomatism during rifting of the southern shelf of the Zimbabwe Craton. The 1.8 billion years younger Proterozoic diamond suite formed by melt-dominated metasomatism related to the 1.1 Ga Umkondo Large Igneous Province. The results demonstrate that resolving the time of diamond growth events requires dating of individual inclusions, and that there was a major change in the magmatic processes responsible for harzburgitic diamond formation beneath Venetia from the Archaean to the Proterozoic.Dating of inclusions within diamonds is used to reconstruct Earth’s geodynamic history. Here, the authors report isotope data on individual garnet inclusions within diamonds from Venetia, South Africa, showing that two suites of diamonds define two isochrons, showing the importance of dating individual inclusions.

Concepts: Igneous rock, Carbon, Diamond, Petrology, Magma, Granite, Archean, Kimberlite


Supereruptions catastrophically eject 100s-1000s of km3 of magma to the surface in a matter of days to a few months. In this study, we use zoning in quartz crystals from the Bishop Tuff (California) to assess the timescales over which a giant magma body transitions from relatively quiescent, pre-eruptive crystallization to rapid decompression and eruption. Quartz crystals in the Bishop Tuff have distinctive rims (<200 μm thick), which are Ti-rich and bright in cathodoluminescence (CL) images, and which can be used to calculate Ti diffusional relaxation times. We use synchrotron-based x-ray microfluorescence to obtain quantitative Ti maps and profiles along rim-interior contacts in quartz at resolutions of 1-5 μm in each linear dimension. We perform CL imaging on a scanning electron microscope (SEM) using a low-energy (5 kV) incident beam to characterize these contacts in high resolution (<1 μm in linear dimensions). Quartz growth times were determined using a 1D model for Ti diffusion, assuming initial step functions. Minimum quartz growth rates were calculated using these calculated growth times and measured rim thicknesses. Maximum rim growth times span from ~1 min to 35 years, with a median of ~4 days. More than 70% of rim growth times are less than 1 year, showing that quartz rims have mostly grown in the days to months prior to eruption. Minimum growth rates show distinct modes between 10-8 and 10-10 m/s (depending on sample), revealing very fast crystal growth rates (100s of nm to 10s of μm per day). Our data show that quartz rims grew well within a year of eruption, with most of the growth happening in the weeks or days preceding eruption. Growth took place under conditions of high supersaturation, suggesting that rim growth marks the onset of decompression and the transition from pre-eruptive to syn-eruptive conditions.

Concepts: Electron, Crystal, Dimension, Igneous rock, Scanning electron microscope, Crystallization, Crystal growth, Granite


The omnipresence of lithium-ion batteries in mobile electronics, and hybrid and electric vehicles necessitates discovery of new lithium resources to meet rising demand and to diversify the global lithium supply chain. Here we demonstrate that lake sediments preserved within intracontinental rhyolitic calderas formed on eruption and weathering of lithium-enriched magmas have the potential to host large lithium clay deposits. We compare lithium concentrations of magmas formed in a variety of tectonic settings using in situ trace-element measurements of quartz-hosted melt inclusions to demonstrate that moderate to extreme lithium enrichment occurs in magmas that incorporate felsic continental crust. Cenozoic calderas in western North America and in other intracontinental settings that generated such magmas are promising new targets for lithium exploration because lithium leached from the eruptive products by meteoric and hydrothermal fluids becomes concentrated in clays within caldera lake sediments to potentially economically extractable levels.Lithium is increasingly being utilized for modern technology in the form of lithium-ion batteries. Here, using in situ measurements of quartz-hosted melt inclusions, the authors demonstrate that preserved lake sediments within rhyolitic calderas have the potential to host large lithium-rich clay deposits.

Concepts: Igneous rock, Lithium-ion battery, Lithium, Granite, Electric car, Felsic, Lava, Caldera


Quartz is a common phase in high-silica igneous rocks and is resistant to post-eruptive alteration, thus offering a reliable record of magmatic processes in silicic magma systems. Here we employ the 75 ka Toba super-eruption as a case study to show that quartz can resolve late-stage temporal changes in magmatic δ(18)O values. Overall, Toba quartz crystals exhibit comparatively high δ(18)O values, up to 10.2‰, due to magma residence within, and assimilation of, local granite basement. However, some 40% of the analysed quartz crystals display a decrease in δ(18)O values in outermost growth zones compared to their cores, with values as low as 6.7‰ (maximum ∆core-rim = 1.8‰). These lower values are consistent with the limited zircon record available for Toba, and the crystallisation history of Toba quartz traces an influx of a low-δ(18)O component into the magma reservoir just prior to eruption. Here we argue that this late-stage low-δ(18)O component is derived from hydrothermally-altered roof material. Our study demonstrates that quartz isotope stratigraphy can resolve magmatic events that may remain undetected by whole-rock or zircon isotope studies, and that assimilation of altered roof material may represent a viable eruption trigger in large Toba-style magmatic systems.

Concepts: Igneous rock, Rock, Quartz, Petrology, Magma, Basalt, Granite, Pegmatite


Large impacts provide a mechanism for resurfacing planets through mixing near-surface rocks with deeper material. Central peaks are formed from the dynamic uplift of rocks during crater formation. As crater size increases, central peaks transition to peak rings. Without samples, debate surrounds the mechanics of peak-ring formation and their depth of origin. Chicxulub is the only known impact structure on Earth with an unequivocal peak ring, but it is buried and only accessible through drilling. Expedition 364 sampled the Chicxulub peak ring, which we found was formed from uplifted, fractured, shocked, felsic basement rocks. The peak-ring rocks are cross-cut by dikes and shear zones and have an unusually low density and seismic velocity. Large impacts therefore generate vertical fluxes and increase porosity in planetary crust.

Concepts: Plate tectonics, Petroleum, Solar System, Planet, Bulk density, Venus, Granite, Impact crater


Accurate and precise ages of large silicic eruptions are critical to calibrating the geologic timescale and gauging the tempo of changes in climate, biologic evolution, and magmatic processes throughout Earth history. The conventional approach to dating these eruptive products using the (40)Ar/(39)Ar method is to fuse dozens of individual feldspar crystals. However, dispersion of fusion dates is common and interpretation is complicated by increasingly precise data obtained via multicollector mass spectrometry. Incremental heating of 49 individual Bishop Tuff (BT) sanidine crystals produces (40)Ar/(39)Ar dates with reduced dispersion, yet we find a 16-ky range of plateau dates that is not attributable to excess Ar. We interpret this dispersion to reflect cooling of the magma reservoir margins below ∼475 °C, accumulation of radiogenic Ar, and rapid preeruption remobilization. Accordingly, these data elucidate the recycling of subsolidus material into voluminous rhyolite magma reservoirs and the effect of preeruptive magmatic processes on the (40)Ar/(39)Ar system. The youngest sanidine dates, likely the most representative of the BT eruption age, yield a weighted mean of 764.8 ± 0.3/0.6 ka (2σ analytical/full uncertainty) indicating eruption only ∼7 ky following the Matuyama-Brunhes magnetic polarity reversal. Single-crystal incremental heating provides leverage with which to interpret complex populations of (40)Ar/(39)Ar sanidine and U-Pb zircon dates and a substantially improved capability to resolve the timing and causal relationship of events in the geologic record.

Concepts: Earth, Igneous rock, Granite, Feldspar, Lava, Volcanology, Geologic time scale, Geomagnetic reversal


The deep biosphere is one of the least understood ecosystems on Earth. Although most microbiological studies in this system have focused on prokaryotes and neglected microeukaryotes, recent discoveries have revealed existence of fossil and active fungi in marine sediments and sub-seafloor basalts, with proposed importance for the subsurface energy cycle. However, studies of fungi in deep continental crystalline rocks are surprisingly few. Consequently, the characteristics and processes of fungi and fungus-prokaryote interactions in this vast environment remain enigmatic. Here we report the first findings of partly organically preserved and partly mineralized fungi at great depth in fractured crystalline rock (-740 m). Based on environmental parameters and mineralogy the fungi are interpreted as anaerobic. Synchrotron-based techniques and stable isotope microanalysis confirm a coupling between the fungi and sulfate reducing bacteria. The cryptoendolithic fungi have significantly weathered neighboring zeolite crystals and thus have implications for storage of toxic wastes using zeolite barriers.Deep subsurface microorganisms play an important role in nutrient cycling, yet little is known about deep continental fungal communities. Here, the authors show organically preserved and partly mineralized fungi at 740 m depth, and find evidence of an anaerobic fungi and sulfate reducing bacteria consortium.

Concepts: Archaea, Bacteria, Crystal, Microbiology, Eukaryote, Microorganism, Granite


In the last few decades, hydrogeochemical problems have benefited from the strong interest in numerical modeling. One of the most recognized hydrogeochemical problems is the dissolution of the calcite in the mixing zone below limestone coastal aquifer. In many works, this problem has been modeled using a coupling algorithm between a density-dependent flow model and a geochemical model. A related difficulty is that, because of the high nonlinearity of the coupled set of equations, high computational effort is needed. During calcite dissolution, an increase in permeability can be identified, which can induce an increase in the penetration of the seawater into the aquifer. The majority of the previous studies used a fully coupled reactive transport model in order to model such problem. Romanov and Dreybrodt (J Hydrol 329:661-673, 2006) have used an alternative approach to quantify the porosity evolution in mixing zone below coastal carbonate aquifer at steady state. This approach is based on the analytic solution presented by Phillips (1991) in his book Flow and Reactions in Permeable Rock, which shows that it is possible to decouple the complex set of equation. This equation is proportional to the square of the salinity gradient, which can be calculated using a density driven flow code and to the reaction rate that can be calculated using a geochemical code. In this work, this equation is used in nonstationary step-by-step regime. At each time step, the quantity of the dissolved calcite is quantified, the change of porosity is calculated, and the permeability is updated. The reaction rate, which is the second derivate of the calcium equilibrium concentration in the equation, is calculated using the PHREEQC code (Parkhurst and Apello 1999). This result is used in GEODENS (Bouhlila 1999; Bouhlila and Laabidi 2008) to calculate change of the porosity after calculating the salinity gradient. For the next time step, the same protocol is used but using the updated porosity and permeability distributions.

Concepts: Algorithm, Mathematics, Chemical reaction, Petroleum, Calcium carbonate, Problem solving, Granite, Aquifers


Geologic processing of Earth’s surface has removed most of the evidence concerning the nature of Earth’s first crust. One region of ancient crust is the Hudson Bay terrane of northeastern Canada, which is mainly composed of Neoarchean felsic crust and forms the nucleus of the Northeastern Superior Province. New data show these ~2.7-billion-year-old rocks to be the youngest to yield variability in neodymium-142 ((142)Nd), the decay product of short-lived samarium-146 ((146)Sm). Combined (146-147)Sm-(142-143)Nd data reveal that this large block of Archean crust formed by reworking of much older (>4.2 billion-year-old) mafic crust over a 1.5-billion-year interval of early Earth history. Thus, unlike on modern Earth, mafic crust apparently could survive for more than 1 billion years to form an important source rock for Archean crustal genesis.

Concepts: Earth, Lithosphere, Geology, Granite, Crust, Archean, Craton, Geologic time scale


The formation of the Tibetan plateau during the India-Asia collision remains an outstanding issue. Proposed models mostly focus on the different styles of Tibetan crustal deformation, yet these do not readily explain the observed variation of deformation and deep structures along the collisional zone. Here we use three-dimensional numerical models to evaluate the effects of crustal rheology on the formation of the Himalayan-Tibetan orogenic system. During convergence, a weaker Asian crust allows strain far north within the upper plate, where a wide continental plateau forms behind the orogeny. In contrast, a stronger Asian crust suppresses the plateau formation, while the orogeny accommodates most of the shortening. The stronger Asian lithosphere is also forced beneath the Indian lithosphere, forming a reversed-polarity underthrusting. Our results demonstrate that the observed variations in lithosphere deformation and structures along the India-Asia collision zone are primarily controlled by the strength heterogeneity of the Asian continental crust.

Concepts: Earth, Plate tectonics, Continuum mechanics, Granite, Crust, Structure of the Earth, Subduction, Orogeny