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Zhao Yongwei attended the Goldschmidt Conference

2014/5/22 18:21:03

1.      Outline of the Conference

The Goldschmidt Conference is one of the largest international conferences in geological academic circles of the world. The aim of the conference is to invite geoscientists around the world to discuss issues in the geochemical field and particularly, to provide a wide platform of displaying work and communicating research interests for young scientists. In the early 1980s, the Geological Society of America expressed geochemistry had many major discoveries and might be an independent discipline, but there wasn’t a formal way to confirm the emergence of this discipline at that time, so a geochemistry-related conference was organized once a year to mark the formal emergence of this discipline. The first conference was held in Baltimore in 1988. The organizing committee of the conference proposed for using this conference to mark the 100th birthday of Viktor Moritz Goldschmidt, the pioneer of geochemistry. At that time, Goldschmidt Conference and geochemical discipline officially emerged.

The Goldschmidt Conference was held in Florence, Italy this time. Except general topics, the conference has 22 topics, including: formation of the universe and planets, early earth, deep earth, mantle geochemistry, continental crust, subduction, attribute and formation process of molten magma, evolution of earthly environment, interaction from nanoscale to macroscale, volcano and disaster, geo-resources and energies, formation, excavation and political relation of ore deposit, climatic changes, aerosol in atmosphere, air quality and climate, weathering, climate, structure and surface layer, ocean and atmosphere, anthropogenic influence and pollutant dynamics, biochemical mechanism, front edge of chemical analysis technology, front edge of calculation of geochemistry, cutting edge of mineralogy and mineral physics, and water geochemistry. Under the above topics, there are also nearly 100 sub-topics. Nearly 3000 representatives from the world attended the conference.


Fig. 2 Entrance of the main hall of the conference

2.Interest points of the topics

In the topic of new progress and outlook of dating, I am most interested in the current technical progress of two reports. The first is to determine the age of young basalt by the 238U-230Th isochronic method. The other is to determine the age of opals in fault gouge by the in-situ U-Pb SHRIMP-RG method and invert seismogenic time of paleoearthquakes. The first technology will be a great help to future research of young volcanoes. The dating of young volcanic rocks has always been a technical difficulty. Restricted by it, people cannot obtain exact age of volcanic eruptions since Late Pleistocene. With the help of this new technology, we may establish more accurate eruption sequences for the Changbaishan Tianchi volcano, Tengchong volcano and other Chinese active volcanoes to help predict future volcanic eruptions. The second technology is a matter of significance to China’s paleoearthquake events.  

3. Cognition and experience

Where are our gap and advantages? The greatest experience at this conference is that the international research relating to geochemistry is all inclusive. Geochemistry has become a mature tool. It can research the genesis of the universe and earth and provide data support to atmosphere evolution and biological influence. The testing means progress with each passing day. The newly developed technologies certainly will break bottlenecks of academic research one after another and greatly promote our cognition to things. Our gap is that we use relatively mature theories to explain domestic things in a small range. The research also focuses on geochemistry of the mantle and crust. Geochemistry as a tool is limited to the use of heated geological debates in China. These debates to a large extent are only mending to some models. It is impossible that they have much help to the understanding of the nature. It is necessary for us to make double consideration to whether these research tools may be used in wider directions. Of course, Chinese academic community also has its own advantages. At present, the research grant of China is sufficient, many organizations have large experimental instruments admired by foreign experts and the accuracy of measured data is accepted by international academic community. Therefore, as long as Chinese scientists broaden their vision, certainly they can generate world-class academic achievements.

My research work has much links with volcanoes and volcanic rocks. With regard to this discipline, I suggest that CEA should accelerate research on the technology for testing young basalt by the 238U-230Th isochronic method on the basis of existing research advantages, establish related laboratories and introduce technical instruments to take a national leading position in the research of volcanology.

In addition, according to the appointment of CEA, I attended volcano study in the central part of Italy and visited volcanoes of Vesuvius, Bolsena, Vico, Bracciano, Colli Albani and Scafati. The most impressive one is the Vesuvius Volcano. This volcano has a very long eruption history. The most famous eruption is the one happening in 79DC, resulting in disappearance of Pompeii of Ancient Rome. Before it, this volcano had had an eruption history of nearly 10,000 years. After 79DC, it erupted tens of times, so the crater formed by the eruption in 79DC was buried by pyroclastic flows generated by later eruptions. Only its position can be speculated.


Fig. 3 Cross section of the accumulation on the inner wall of Vesuvius Volcano Crater


Fig. 4 Welded agglomerate at the top of Vesuvius Volcano

Fig. 3shows the inner wall of Vesuvius Volcano is the accumulation of stratified lava and tephra in form of cyclothem, suggesting that the eruption in 1944 is not a short-lived eruption, but consists of dozens of eruptions, strong and weak. The latest eruption is the weakest lava fountain eruption and formed the welded agglomerate at the mountain top (Fig. 4).

During the visit to the Vesuvius Volcanic Crater, I found the crater is not round but oval and fractures developed at the two ends of the long axis (Fig. 5), and the phenomenon of overlapping of the two eruptions happening in the main period was discovered at the crater and near the longer end. It is speculated that this fault controls the upwelling and eruption of volcanic magma.


Fig. 5 Fault of the crater in the northwest of Vesuvius Volcano


The greatest cognition from this study is re-cognition to the phenomenon that tectonics control volcanoes. Careful observation of volcanic edifice and active tectonics may deepen our cognition and understanding on volcano control factors.