Publications, Talks & Press

In April our team helped organize a special session at the European Geophysical Union meetings in Vienna. Our session explored the links between mass extinctions and large igneous provinces in the Phanerozoic. Because the study of large igneous provinces lies at the intersection of so many fields–from the deep earth and mantle dynamics to surface volcanism and implications for life–it is especially important to plan sessions such as this one that allow researchers to share different perspectives. In this session we heard from scientists studying plant remains, isotopes, fossil records, paleomagnetic records, and igneous rocks. Despite these diverse tools, the common goal is to understand the causes and the geological record of near-catastrophic disruptions of earth’s ecological balance.

This year the MIT/Moscow Institute of Physics of the Earth team traveled to the Angara River north of Ust Ilim’sk to see the giant Siberia tuffs. These are rocks created by the fall of ash and rocks following large violent explosive volcanic eruptions, very different from the quieter effusive flows that formed the bulk of the flood basalts. The trip was a success and were thrilled to see these exciting rocks and to bring samples home; they are already in analysis. For details on the trip, see the 2010 Explorers Flag report (link on this website), and the maps and video flyover elsewhere on this site. We also have a video including footage from this trip — see the Maps and Videos page of this site.

The spring Siberia team meeting will be one part of a three-part meeting on large igneous provinces and mass extinctions:

ESF Magellan Conference: Large Igneous Provinces and Mass Extinctions

This conference comprises three separate but related activities.

  1. A session at the Annual Meeting of the European Geosciences Union (EGU). This session, which we hope will be scheduled on Friday 7th May 2010, will be called “Large Igneous Provinces and Mass Extinctions” and will be convened by Henrik Svensen and Lindy Elkins-Tanton.
  2. A one-day workshop on the Siberian volcanic province, organised by Lindy Elkins-Tanton and held on Saturday 8th May. This workshop will focus on Siberian flood volcanism and its environmental consequences, a project financed by the Continental Dynamics Program of the US NSF. The morning session will be open to all participants and will be a general overview of the project. The afternoon session, restricted to members of the team, will go into details of the operation of the project and plans for future activities.
  3. "Volcanic basins: scientific, economic and environmental aspects”, a two-day conference financed by the Magellan series of the European Sceince Foundation and convened by Nick Arndt and Henrik Svensen.

Magellan conference report here.

As we did last year, our team held a one-day workshop in San Francisco at the American Geophysical Union meeting. There we presented new results and discuss the next steps of the project.

In July 2009 our team went back to the Kotuy and then on to the Maymecha rivers, in arctic Siberia just south of the Taimyr peninsula. This was a particularly successful field season because the team found extensive tuffs, rocks that are the product of explosive volcanism. Such explosions can carry climate-altering gases high into the atmosphere where they have long residence times.

Previous workers had thought the tuffs were created by lava interacting with surface water, such as lakes, and therefore the eruptions were not driven by high gas content. Our team was able to find tuff layers filled with broken pieces of deeper bedrock, indicating that the eruptions were driven from some depth, and adding support to the idea that the explosive volcanics carried an important gas content.

Please see the blog from the field under the “Maymecha-Kotuy Expedition 2009″ page on this website.

In December 2008 the majority of team members met in San Francisco, CA. Participants gave brief talks on their latest research results, and made plans for the coming year. The workshop report can be downloaded here.

In July 2008 we took our first major field excursion to Arctic Siberia, with a drop on the Kotuy River (helicopter out of Khatanga), followed by a raft trip down the Kotuy, where we visited alkaline intrusive complexes, coal and limestone sections, tuffs, and lava sections. A second helicopter trip took us to the Guli magmatic/intrusive province where we sampled carbonatites, metsomatized phlogopite-rich igneous rocks, alkaline magmas, meimechites, dunites, and pyroxenites.

The trip participants were Volodia Pavlov, Roman Veselovsky, and Anna Fetisova from the Institute of Physics of the Earth in Moscow, Sam Bowring, Brad Hager, Lindy Elkins-Tanton, and Ben Black from MIT, and John Rubin and Scott Simper, independent filmmakers. The trip was also an official Explorer’s Club Falg Expedition.

We carried about 30 geochemistry samples back to the US while Pavlov and Veselovsky took their paleomagnetic sample back to Moscow. An additional 100 samples will be shipped to MIT from Moscow.

Photos: Top: Veselovsky and Elkins-Tanton on Cambrian limestones on the Kotuy River; Bottom: Team with helicopter at the Guli province.

December 14, 2008, the day before the American Geophysical Fall Meeting, we had our first annual project workshop at the Marriott in San Francisco. Twenty-six people attended, including Leonard Johnson, our NSF program director, and John Rubin, independent filmmaker. Fourteen scientists presented their most recent results.