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Concept: Volcano


China has recently made available hourly air pollution data from over 1500 sites, including airborne particulate matter (PM), SO2, NO2, and O3. We apply Kriging interpolation to four months of data to derive pollution maps for eastern China. Consistent with prior findings, the greatest pollution occurs in the east, but significant levels are widespread across northern and central China and are not limited to major cities or geologic basins. Sources of pollution are widespread, but are particularly intense in a northeast corridor that extends from near Shanghai to north of Beijing. During our analysis period, 92% of the population of China experienced >120 hours of unhealthy air (US EPA standard), and 38% experienced average concentrations that were unhealthy. China’s population-weighted average exposure to PM2.5 was 52 μg/m3. The observed air pollution is calculated to contribute to 1.6 million deaths/year in China [0.7-2.2 million deaths/year at 95% confidence], roughly 17% of all deaths in China.

Concepts: Sulfuric acid, Shanghai, Volcano, Dust, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate, Smog, Air pollution


The ca. 3.48 Ga Dresser Formation, Pilbara Craton, Western Australia, is well known for hosting some of Earth’s earliest convincing evidence of life (stromatolites, fractionated sulfur/carbon isotopes, microfossils) within a dynamic, low-eruptive volcanic caldera affected by voluminous hydrothermal fluid circulation. However, missing from the caldera model were surface manifestations of the volcanic-hydrothermal system (hot springs, geysers) and their unequivocal link with life. Here we present new discoveries of hot spring deposits including geyserite, sinter terracettes and mineralized remnants of hot spring pools/vents, all of which preserve a suite of microbial biosignatures indicative of the earliest life on land. These include stromatolites, newly observed microbial palisade fabric and gas bubbles preserved in inferred mineralized, exopolymeric substance. These findings extend the known geological record of inhabited terrestrial hot springs on Earth by ∼3 billion years and offer an analogue in the search for potential fossil life in ancient Martian hot springs.

Concepts: Western Australia, Geologic time scale, Hydrothermal vent, Spring, Hot spring, Geyser, Water, Volcano


A mural excavated at the Neolithic Çatalhöyük site (Central Anatolia, Turkey) has been interpreted as the oldest known map. Dating to ∼6600 BCE, it putatively depicts an explosive summit eruption of the Hasan Dağı twin-peaks volcano located ∼130 km northeast of Çatalhöyük, and a birds-eye view of a town plan in the foreground. This interpretation, however, has remained controversial not least because independent evidence for a contemporaneous explosive volcanic eruption of Hasan Dağı has been lacking. Here, we document the presence of andesitic pumice veneer on the summit of Hasan Dağı, which we dated using (U-Th)/He zircon geochronology. The (U-Th)/He zircon eruption age of 8.97±0.64 ka (or 6960±640 BCE; uncertainties 2σ) overlaps closely with (14)C ages for cultural strata at Çatalhöyük, including level VII containing the “map” mural. A second pumice sample from a surficial deposit near the base of Hasan Dağı records an older explosive eruption at 28.9±1.5 ka. U-Th zircon crystallization ages in both samples range from near-eruption to secular equilibrium (>380 ka). Collectively, our results reveal protracted intrusive activity at Hasan Dağı punctuated by explosive venting, and provide the first radiometric ages for a Holocene explosive eruption which was most likely witnessed by humans in the area. Geologic and geochronologic lines of evidence thus support previous interpretations that residents of Çatalhöyük artistically represented an explosive eruption of Hasan Dağı volcano. The magmatic longevity recorded by quasi-continuous zircon crystallization coupled with new evidence for late-Pleistocene and Holocene explosive eruptions implicates Hasan Dağı as a potential volcanic hazard.

Concepts: Geochronology, Lava, Turkey, Radiometric dating, Explosive eruption, Volcanology, Magma, Volcano


Outdoor fine particulate matter (PM2.5) has been identified as a global health threat, but the number of large U.S. prospective cohort studies with individual participant data remains limited, especially at lower recent exposures.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Scrubber, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Volcano, Dust, Smog, Air pollution, Particulate


Serpentinization-fueled systems in the cool, hydrated forearc mantle of subduction zones may provide an environment that supports deep chemolithoautotrophic life. Here, we examine serpentinite clasts expelled from mud volcanoes above the Izu-Bonin-Mariana subduction zone forearc (Pacific Ocean) that contain complex organic matter and nanosized Ni-Fe alloys. Using time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry and Raman spectroscopy, we determined that the organic matter consists of a mixture of aliphatic and aromatic compounds and functional groups such as amides. Although an abiotic or subduction slab-derived fluid origin cannot be excluded, the similarities between the molecular signatures identified in the clasts and those of bacteria-derived biopolymers from other serpentinizing systems hint at the possibility of deep microbial life within the forearc. To test this hypothesis, we coupled the currently known temperature limit for life, 122 °C, with a heat conduction model that predicts a potential depth limit for life within the forearc at ∼10,000 m below the seafloor. This is deeper than the 122 °C isotherm in known oceanic serpentinizing regions and an order of magnitude deeper than the downhole temperature at the serpentinized Atlantis Massif oceanic core complex, Mid-Atlantic Ridge. We suggest that the organic-rich serpentinites may be indicators for microbial life deep within or below the mud volcano. Thus, the hydrated forearc mantle may represent one of Earth’s largest hidden microbial ecosystems. These types of protected ecosystems may have allowed the deep biosphere to thrive, despite violent phases during Earth’s history such as the late heavy bombardment and global mass extinctions.

Concepts: Convergent boundary, Earthquake, Spectroscopy, Crust, Volcano, Geology, Plate tectonics, Earth


Columnar joints form by cracking during cooling-induced contraction of lava, allowing hydrothermal fluid circulation. A lack of direct observations of their formation has led to ambiguity about the temperature window of jointing and its impact on fluid flow. Here we develop a novel thermo-mechanical experiment to disclose the temperature of columnar jointing in lavas. Using basalts from Eyjafjallajökull volcano (Iceland) we show that contraction during cooling induces stress build-up below the solidus temperature (980 °C), resulting in localised macroscopic failure between 890 and 840 °C. This temperature window for incipient columnar jointing is supported by modelling informed by mechanical testing and thermal expansivity measurements. We demonstrate that columnar jointing takes place well within the solid state of volcanic rocks, and is followed by a nonlinear increase in system permeability of <9 orders of magnitude during cooling. Columnar jointing may promote advective cooling in magmatic-hydrothermal environments and fluid loss during geothermal drilling and thermal stimulation.

Concepts: Rock, Pumice, Magma, Volcanology, Fundamental physics concepts, Lava, Volcano, Basalt


Crystals formed prior to a volcanic event can provide evidence of processes leading to and timing of eruptions. Clinopyroxene is common in basaltic to intermediate volcanoes, however, its ability as a recorder of pre-eruptive histories has remained comparatively underexplored. Here we show that novel high-resolution trace element images of clinopyroxene track eruption triggers and timescales at Mount Etna (Sicily, Italy). Chromium (Cr) distribution in clinopyroxene from 1974 to 2014 eruptions reveals punctuated episodes of intrusion of primitive magma at depth. Magma mixing efficiently triggered volcanism (success rate up to 90%), within only 2 weeks of arrival of mafic intrusions. Clinopyroxene zonations distinguish between injections of mafic magma and regular recharges with more evolved magma, which often fail to tip the system to erupt. High Cr zonations can therefore be used to reconstruct past eruptions and inform responses to geophysical signals of volcano unrest, potentially offering an additional approach to volcano hazard monitoring.

Concepts: Decade Volcanoes, Volcanology, Mount Vesuvius, Sicily, Lava, Magma, Volcano, Basalt


Among the paintings and engravings found in the Chauvet-Pont d'Arc cave (Ardèche, France), several peculiar spray-shape signs have been previously described in the Megaloceros Gallery. Here we document the occurrence of strombolian volcanic activity located 35 km northwest of the cave, and visible from the hills above the cave entrance. The volcanic eruptions were dated, using 40Ar/39Ar, between 29 ± 10 ka and 35 ± 8 ka (2σ), which overlaps with the 14C AMS and thermoluminescence ages of the first Aurignacian occupations of the cave in the Megaloceros Gallery. Our work provides the first evidence of an intense volcanic activity between 40 and 30 ka in the Bas-Vivarais region, and it is very likely that Humans living in the Ardèche river area witnessed one or several eruptions. We propose that the spray-shape signs found in the Chauvet-Pont d'Arc cave could be the oldest known depiction of a volcanic eruption, predating by more than 34 ka the description by Pliny the Younger of the Vesuvius eruption (AD 79) and by 28 ka the Çatalhöyük mural discovered in central Turkey.

Concepts: Lava, Plinian eruption, Pliny the Elder, 79, Pompeii, Volcano, Herculaneum, Mount Vesuvius


Research into environmental factors associated with suicide has historically focused on meteorological variables. Recently, a heightened risk of suicide related to short-term exposure to airborne particulate matter was reported. Here, we examined the associations between short-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide and completed suicide in Salt Lake County, Utah (n = 1,546) from 2000 to 2010. We used a time-stratified case-crossover design to estimate adjusted odds ratios for the relationship between suicide and exposure to air pollutants on the day of the suicide and during the days preceding the suicide. We observed maximum heightened odds of suicide associated with interquartile-range increases in nitrogen dioxide during cumulative lag 3 (average of the 3 days preceding suicide; odds ratio (OR) = 1.20, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.04, 1.39) and fine particulate matter (diameter ≤2.5 μm) on lag day 2 (day 2 before suicide; OR = 1.05, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.10). Following stratification by season, an increased suicide risk was associated with exposure to nitrogen dioxide during the spring/fall transition period (OR = 1.35, 95% CI: 1.09, 1.66) and fine particulate matter in the spring (OR = 1.28, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.61) during cumulative lag 3. Findings of positive associations between air pollution and suicide appear to be consistent across study locations with vastly different meteorological, geographical, and cultural characteristics.

Concepts: Volcano, Dust, Acid rain, Oxide, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Air pollution, Smog, Particulate


Strong ground motions induce large dynamic stress changes that may disturb the magma chamber of a volcano, thus accelerating the volcanic activity. An underground nuclear explosion test near an active volcano constitutes a direct treat to the volcano. This study examined the dynamic stress changes of the magma chamber of Baekdusan (Changbaishan) that can be induced by hypothetical North Korean nuclear explosions. Seismic waveforms for hypothetical underground nuclear explosions at North Korean test site were calculated by using an empirical Green’s function approach based on a source-spectral model of a nuclear explosion; such a technique is efficient for regions containing poorly constrained velocity structures. The peak ground motions around the volcano were estimated from empirical strong-motion attenuation curves. A hypothetical M7.0 North Korean underground nuclear explosion may produce peak ground accelerations of 0.1684 m/s(2) in the horizontal direction and 0.0917 m/s(2) in the vertical direction around the volcano, inducing peak dynamic stress change of 67 kPa on the volcano surface and ~120 kPa in the spherical magma chamber. North Korean underground nuclear explosions with magnitudes of 5.0-7.6 may induce overpressure in the magma chamber of several tens to hundreds of kilopascals.

Concepts: Caldera, Mantle plume, Hawaii, Basalt, Lava, Volcanology, Magma, Volcano