How do you break up a continent?

Featured image: Lake Malawi, as seen from space. Image courtesy of ESA/MERIS, CC-BY-SA IGO.

Paper: Preferential localized thinning of lithospheric mantle in the melt-poor Malawi Rift
Authors: E. Hopper, J. B. Gaherty, D. J. Shillington, N. J. Accardo, A. A. Nyblade, B. K. Holtzman, C. Havlin, C. A. Scholz, P. R. N. Chindandali, R. W. Ferdinand, G. D. Mulibo, G. Mbogoni

Continental rifting, where one landmass slowly breaks apart into two pieces separated by a brand new ocean basin, is a fundamental part of plate tectonics. But it presents an apparent paradox: the tectonic forces pulling on the plates are thought to be much too weak to break the strong rocks of the continents.

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Tiny wobbles foreshadow big earthquakes

Featured image: A GPS station in the Sawtooth National Forest near Ketchum, Idaho. Photo by Scott Haefner (USGS).

Paper: Months-long thousand-kilometre-scale wobbling before great subduction earthquakes
Authors: J. R. Bedford, M. Moreno, Z. Deng, O. Oncken, B. Schurr, T. John, J. C. Báez, M. Bevis

We’re always on the lookout for earthquake precursors, indicators that the Earth might be gearing up for some shaking, and geophysicists think they might have found a new one: a small but measurable back-and-forth “wobble” of the land starting several months before very big earthquakes hit.

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Climate records written on the seafloor

Featured image: A perspective view of the seafloor at the East Pacific Rise, 9N. Made with GeoMapApp (www.geomapapp.org, CC-BY), and GMRT topography data (Ryan et al. 2009, CC-BY).

Paper: Do sea level variations influence mid-ocean ridge magma supply? A test using crustal thickness and bathymetry data from the East Pacific Rise
Authors: B. Boulahanis, S. M. Carbotte, P. J. Huybers, M. R. Nedimovic, O. Aghaei, J. P. Canales, and C. H. Langmuir

Many of our records of past sea level come from local measurements from coastal towns logged over decades or centuries, or are estimated from ice or sediment cores spanning the last few thousand years, but new research suggests that much longer records can be found in an unlikely place: imprinted deep underground in the oceanic crust.

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How to locate oceanic earthquakes without getting your feet wet

Photo of a fence offset by fault slip on the San Andreas during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake

Featured image: A fence broken by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, by G. K. Gilbert. Public domain.

For the millions of people living near the San Andreas fault zone in California, the billion-dollar question is when the next “big one” is going to happen.

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