Taxonomy term

isotope

LIP split by South Atlantic breakup was sourced from deep

Massive volumes of rock called large igneous provinces (LIPs) have formed many times throughout Earth’s history, fed by some of the planet’s mightiest volcanic events. The volcanic eruptions, sometimes lasting millions of years and pouring hundreds of thousands of cubic kilometers of lava onto the surface, have influenced continental breakups, past climate change and mass extinction events. For everything that’s known about LIPs, however, many questions about them remain, including how far below the surface the erupted magma originate. In a recent study, researchers report that the origins of the Paraná-Etendeka LIP likely lay deep in Earth’s interior.

16 Mar 2018

Isotopes reveal sources of centuries-old alabaster artifacts

When geologists think of alabaster, they likely envision blocks of gypsum, its main mineral constituent; when art historians hear the word, statues crafted from the soft rock may come to mind. A new study focused on the sources of centuries-old alabaster artworks has geologists thinking about art history, and art historians pondering geochemistry. In the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers used isotope fingerprinting along with historical records to tie medieval and Renaissance alabaster sculptures to the quarries from which their materials were excavated.

26 Feb 2018

Isotopes suggest ancient turquoise mine was prolific

Few minerals are more iconic in the Desert Southwest than turquoise. The blue-green gemstone, which offers a stark contrast to the dusty red southwestern deserts, has been coveted for thousands of years by indigenous peoples, conquering Spaniards and now by a growing market around the world. Despite its past and present cultural significance, especially among indigenous populations, little is known about the early history of turquoise mining. Researchers have now uncovered previously unknown details about a historic turquoise mining site in Arizona that suggest it was more prolific than once thought.

05 Feb 2018

Stable isotopes offer novel methods of disease detection

Stable isotope techniques developed by geoscientists are being applied to studies of human health, and one in particular has shown promise as an improved way to determine bone loss, a problem for astronauts, as well as those on bed rest and aging populations here on Earth. 
08 Jan 2018

Nutrient deficiency delayed life after mass extinction

After Earth’s most severe mass extinction, life took up to 9 million years to recover — millions of years longer than after other extinction events. New research published in Geology suggests that a collapse in the ocean’s productivity might have been the cause.

25 Nov 2016

Helium escape may help predict volcanic activity

Europe’s tallest active volcano, Mount Etna, rises 3,300 meters above the island of Sicily, which lies just off the coast of Italy’s “toe.” Within 100 kilometers of more than 3 million people, Etna frequently rumbles and occasionally belches. As recently as last May, explosions accompanied lava fountains and ash erupted from one of the volcano’s craters over several days. This was just one of many eruptions in a long line of events, with historical documents dating similar outbursts back to 1500 B.C. Scientists cannot pinpoint when Etna will next erupt, but in a new study in Geology, researchers have identified a clue that may help them better understand how the volcano’s inner plumbing system changes just prior to an eruption.

17 Aug 2016

Long-gone supernova sprinkles rare isotope

At the end of a star’s lifecycle it collapses and explodes into a supernova, spewing rare elements and isotopes outward into space. In the last 1,000 years, three supernova events have been observed in the Milky Way Galaxy. Now scientists have detected a rare iron isotope, iron-60, in our solar system that hints that a supernova may have exploded nearby within the last few million years.

09 Aug 2016

Underwater Roman marble traced to Greece, Italy and Turkey

From the first century B.C. to the third century A.D., the city of Baiae, located on the west coast of Italy, near Naples, was the preferred summer home of Roman emperors, including Augustus and Nero. The once-grand city now lies under more than 5 meters of water due to coastal subsidence, and is preserved as the Underwater Archaeological Park of Baiae. Researchers have now traced the opulent city’s white marble floors to some of the most famous quarries in Italy, Greece and Turkey.

03 Jun 2016

Growth rings in rocks reveal past climate

Paleoclimate studies often depend on mineral or sediment layers deposited seasonally or annually in caves, lakes and ice, but such records leave gaps where caves, lakes or ice sheets aren’t found. Now, scientists using a new technique that analyzes calcite layers ringing pebbles and rocks in arid landscapes are opening a new window onto the climate history of western North America. And because such deposits are found all over the world, the technique might prove to be a useful new tool for studying paleoclimate globally.

02 May 2016

North Sea uplift caused Jurassic cooling event

The climate of the Jurassic, long envisioned as ubiquitously warm from the equator to the poles, was actually more dynamic, sometimes cooling dramatically, according to a new study. The research joined isotopic and sedimentological data to suggest that an abrupt cooling event occurred in the midlatitudes early in the Middle Jurassic as a result of changing ocean currents associated with a feature known as the North Sea Dome.

31 Mar 2016

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