To speed up magma, add water

A three-dimensional seismic image of the mantle beneath the Lau Basin in the South Pacific just published in Nature has an intriguing anomaly. The image showed the least magma where the scientists expected to find the most. After considerable debate, they concluded that magma with a high water content was flushed so rapidly that it wasn’t showing up in the images.

Technique measures heat transport in the Earth’s crust

David Kilper/WUSTL Photo ServicesPutting a new spin on an old technique, Anne M. Hofmeister, Ph.D., research professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has revolutionized scientists’ understanding of heat transport in the Earth’s crust, the outermost solid shell of our planet.

Geologist plans volcano safety for Ecuadorians

Researchers inspect a Lahar flow – a mix of water and rock fragments that looks like moving concrete – near the Tungaruhua volcano close to Banjos, Ecuador. The flow killed three people and shut down access to the road to Banjos in a 2006 eruption.A geologist at Washington University in St. Louis is doing his part to make sure that the small Latin American country of Ecuador follows the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared. Robert Buchwaldt, Ph.D., Washington University lecturer in earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, is the only scientist from America who sits on an international committee that is seeking ways to address the volcanic threat in Ecuador, especially in Quito, a city of five million nestled against the volcano Guagua Pichincha, which erupted just two years ago.

Field guide for confirming new earth-like planets described

WUSTL researchers provide a field guide to exoplanets.Astronomers looking for earth-like planets in other solar systems — exoplanets — now have a new field guide thanks to earth and planetary scientists at Washington University in St. Louis. Bruce Fegley, Ph.D., Washington University professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, and Laura Schaefer, laboratory assistant, have used thermochemical equilibrium calculations to model the chemistry of silicate vapor and steam-rich atmospheres formed when earth-like planets are undergoing accretion. During the accretion process, with surface temperatures of several thousands degrees Kelvin (K), a magma ocean forms and vaporizes.