Geoff Abers on Subduction Zones and the Geological Water Cycle
Listen now
Subduction zones are places where a slab of oceanic lithosphere plunges into the mantle below.  The slab consists of the sediments on top, crustal rocks in the middle, and the lithospheric mantle on the bottom, all plunging down together as a kind of sandwich.  In each of these layers is an ingredient that plays a key role in shaping the evolution of the Earth over geological time – and that is water. Geoff Abers has conducted extensive research on water in subduction zones.  In this episode, he explains how he uses seismic observations to map the distribution of water in subducting plates and in the overriding mantle.  He then couples these observations with computer-based models of the physics and chemistry of the subducting plates to predict the fate of the water in the downgoing plate.  The results are surprising — over geological time, the amount of water in all of today’s oceans may have been mixed into the deep mantle by subducting plates.   Geoff Abers is Professor of Geological Sciences at Cornell University.  
More Episodes
We know that most magma originates in the Earth’s mantle. As it pushes up through the many kilometers of lithosphere to the surface, it pauses in one or more magma chambers or partially melted mush zones for periods of up to a few millennia before erupting. But while we have seismic evidence and...
Published 05/06/24
Published 05/06/24
At roughly 15-25-million-year intervals since the Archean, huge volumes of lava have spewed onto the Earth’s surface. These form the large igneous provinces, which are called flood basalts when they occur on continents. As Richard Ernst explains in the podcast, the eruption of a large igneous...
Published 04/10/24