Societal Challenges

  • Climate & Ecosystems

    • Paleoclimate
      Paleoclimate

      The Earth's climate system has demonstrably changed on both global and regional scales since the pre-industrial era, with some of these changes attributable to human activities (IPCC, 2001). Further amplified global warming since the 1970's, a rising sea level, regional climate shifts, and extreme climate events severely impacts the human habitat. We have an obligation to conduct research that provides a mechanistic understanding of present and past variations in regional and global climate. Of greatest concern regarding the human perturbation of climate is not what we know but rather what we do not know. While some changes are likely to be milder than expounded in the popular press, there are others that may be unexpectedly severe too.

    • Deep Life
      Deep Life

      It has been posited that the Deep Biosphere harbours a greater biomass than the mass of all the living cells, prokaryotic and eukaryotic, in the surface regions of the biosphere. These estimates of the extent of the Deep Biosphere have been made by projecting and extrapolating from data collected from a very limited number of boreholes in marine and terrestrial environments. In truth, we have only very limited data on which to base these estimates. The lower depth limit of the biosphere has not been reached in any borehole studies that have included a microbiological component, and the factors that control the abundance and activities of microbes at depth and the lower depth limit of life are still poorly understood.

    • Impact Structures
      Impact Structures

      Each day thousands of small bodies of extraterrestrial matter collide with Earth but large celestial travellers producing impacts structures of 100 of meters to hundreds of kilometers are rare. In the Phanerozoic eon, a giant impact in Mexico created a 200 km wide crater and devastations affecting the whole planet. This event wiped out major portions of the fauna and flora on the Earth and was strong enough to define the transition from the Cretaceous to the Tertiary era with the end of the dinosaurs and the rise to the dominance of the mammals. Thus, large impacts are the fastest geological events creating new ground for evolution.

    • Volcanoes
      Volcanoes

      Volcanic eruptions may affect climate and the environment from regional to global scale. On global scale they may contribute to global climate change through compositional changes in the earth's atmosphere. This can either be warming of the earth’s atmosphere through release of CO2 and water vapour which act as greenhouse gases, or global cooling through suspended volcanic particles. Dust and ash, and to an even greater extend sulphuric gases which form droplets of sulphuric acid can block out the earth's sunlight, hence reducing solar radiation (http://www.geology.sdsu.edu). Understanding the interplay between volcanic activities and climate variations requires knowledge of both volcanic and climate history.

  • Sustainable Georesources

    • Deep Life
      Deep Life

      Commonly the biosphere is defined as the small zone on Earth in which living organisms can exist. But the extend of deep life is not ending where humus-rich soil hits bedrock. An unbelievable richness of bacteria, viruses and archea is dwelling at depth to several thousand meters below ground and in temperatures of up to 122° C. With their metabolism they contribute critically to the generation of carbohydrate resources and they even contribute to the formation of several different mineral resources.

    • Volcanoes
      Volcanoes

      Volcanism, and more broadly -- where melting is not involved -- thermal regimes, are a fundamental aspect of planets. Radioactive decay of parent nuclides (U, Th, K), residual heat during Earth’s accretion, and crystallization are the main processes that generate heat inside the Earth; heat so intense that it melts rock and drives tectonic processes and planetary differentiation. Geothermal energy can be tapped from the Earth's natural heat at volcanoes or mantle plumes. When magma moves upward to depths of only a few kilometres it transfers heat by interaction with groundwater. The groundwater then circulates by convection and forms geothermal reservoirs. At shallower depth, decompression causes additional melting of rock and magma degassing which may leads to in volcanic eruptions. Holes drilled into a subsurface geothermal system allow rapid transfer of hot water or steam to the surface to drive turbines and generate electrical power.

    • Element Cycles
      Element Cycles

      The world’s population is expected to rise by 1.5 billion in the next 15 years, with most population growth occurring in the emerging economies of China and India. The increase of people expected by 2050 exceeds the world population that existed in 1950. Accompanying this growth is a relentless demand for natural resources to sustain economic development and to support rising standards of living. A key priority for the global community, now, and in the future, is to identify and develop increasingly sparse natural resources, including mineral resources, hydrocarbon reservoirs, and water, while at the same time protecting the environment.

    • Plate Margins
      Plate Margins

      At the borders of the major tectonic plates on Earth tremendous energy is released in earthquakes, through volcanoes and in mountain building. At the same time most of the erosion and deposition of sediments is culminating along the plate margins. Along with these recycling processes several minerals and organic matter are concentrated to many of the most important resources on Earth

  • Natural Hazards

    • Faults
      Faults

      Active faulting is by far the most common earthquake generating process beside volcanic activities, deep fluid circulation and collapsing of caverns and underground mines. The earthquake hazard is not only generated by ground shaking and ground displacement, but also by phenomena such like ground liquefaction, landslides and tsunamis. However, little is known on the mechanism of stress accumulation and rupture propagation and the chemical and physical processes that leads to stress release and why e.g. some faults are creeping while others are locked. Today we are still far away from reliable earthquake prediction. Only deep drilling provides access to seismogenic zones for monitoring and to retrieve samples from there to improve our understanding of fault processes.

    • Volcanoes
      Volcanoes

      Volcanic eruptions are one of Earth's most dramatic and violent agents of change. Volcanic eruptions can be placed into two general categories: those that are explosive, such as e.g. Mount St. Helens or large caldera volcanos, such as Campi Flegrei, and those that are effusive, such as the Hawaiian Hot Spot. Powerful explosive eruptions can drastically alter land and water for tens of kilometers around a volcano. Eruptions often force people living near volcanoes to abandon their land and homes, sometimes forever. Those living farther away are likely to avoid complete destruction, but their cities and towns, crops, industrial plants, transportation systems, and electrical grids can still be damaged by tephra, ash, lahars, and flooding. Some volcanoes exhibit precursory unrest that if detected and analyzed in time allows eruptions to be anticipated.

    • Impact Structures
      Impact Structures

      Throughout Earth’s history, hundreds of impacts have been reported, with some occurrences causing deaths, injuries, property damage or other significant consequences. Currently ca. 170 impact craters are known on Earth; about one third of those structures are not exposed on the surface and can only be studied by geophysics or drilling. The impact origin of geological structures can only be confirmed by petrographic and geochemical studies; thus, it is of crucial importance to obtain samples of subsurface structures. In addition, also structures that have surface exposures often require drilling and drill cores, to obtain information of the subsurface structure, to provide ground-truth for geophysical studies, and to obtain samples of rock types not exposed at the surface. For many years drilling of impact craters was rarely done for reasons unrelated to their impact origin.

    • Plate Margins
      Plate Margins

      Plate margins are areas where the most life-threatening geological phenomena occurs: huge earthquakes on subduction megathrusts, including the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake (both Mw 9.0 and with the associated devastating tsunami), the 1960 Southern Chile earthquake (M 9.5), the 1964 Alaska earthquake (M 9.2), and the 1923 Kanto earthquake (M 7.9) that destroyed Tokyo, the capital of Japan. Accompanying geohazards include tsunamis, landslides, powerful volcanic eruptions, and other threats to human life, infrastructure and economics, and to ecosystems. Given that 60% of Earth's population lives within the frontal 50 km of the coast, there is a strong need for scientific and economic efforts, to shed light on the processes responsible for such ocean margin geohazards as well as their mitigation. Scientific drilling has a high potential to such studies and must be an integral and indispensable part of this effort.

Highlights

Collisional Orogeny in the Scandinavian Caledonides

Downhole logging and seismic measurements are ongoing

After reaching target depth of 2495.8 m on August 25, the first of two downhole logging campaigns has been successfully carried out between September 9-12. Currently VSP measurements are running.  Read more

Drilling the Cretaceous Songliao Basin in China (DPCSB)

Drilling is ongoing since April 13, 2014

Spud in of the Continental Scientific Drilling Project of Cretaceous Songliao Basin (DPCSB), the deepest targeted ICDP co-funded project, was on April 13, 2014 using the new Chinese rig “Crust-I” with 10 km depth capacity. On-site facilities include an engineering center and the on-site core repository.  Read more

Events