NSFGEO-NERC: The Cracking of a Craton: Understanding Volatile Release during Continental Breakup

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Earth Sciences


Volatile elements (hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen) played an essential role in the secular evolution of the solid Earth and the eventual emergence of life. Over Earth history, volatiles - including "trace volatiles" such as noble gases - have been transported between Earth's surface, crust, and mantle reservoirs, via subduction and volcanism. Continental cratons are relatively stable and potentially represent a large, yet poorly-constrained volatile reservoir (e.g., Sherwood Lollar et al., 2014). When cratons are disrupted by major volcanic and/or rifting events, they release large amounts of volatiles into Earth's crust and atmosphere. Such events also release economically important gases (e.g., helium and H2), which have long been stored in the stable craton (e.g., Ballentine and Burnard 2002; Lowenstern et al., 2014). The objective of this proposal is to determine the geological processes that control volatile production in the craton, migration through the crust and release at the surface in the form of seeps.


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