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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Water on Earth and Beyond Workshop

22-23 September 2009

The Ogden Research Centre

Water has a dramatic influence on the chemical and physical properties of natural materials, and so has played a central role in shaping our Universe.  Most importantly for us, it has dominated the evolution of our own planet and appears to have been essential for the origin and emergence of life.  This workshop will focus on the distribution of water in the Universe and planets, and the search for water-rich environments capable of harbouring life, both inside and outside our solar system

The scope of the meeting will be to discuss the distribution of water in the universe, ranging from water on Earth and its critical role as a habitat for life, up to searches for evidence of water on the Moon, solar system planets and beyond, with the obvious connection to the search for extraterrestrial life.

8 plenary lectures will be interspersed with discussion periods focused on what is the path forward in each subject and what are the connections with the other lecture topics.  Speakers include:

  • Professor Richard Arculus (Australian National University and IAS Fellow)
  • Professor Monica Grady (Open University and IAS Fellow)
  • Dr Katie Kelley (University of Rhode Island)
  • Professor Peter van Keken (University of Michigan)
  • Dr Stephen Parman (Brown University)
  • Dr Luis Teodoro (NASA Ames Research Centre)
  • Giovanna Tinetti (UCL)
  • Professor Ian Wright (Open University and IAS Fellow)

The following twelve open questions will be discussed:

Q1 What is the total water budget for Earth/other planets/on the scale of the Solar System and beyond?

Q2 What is the origin of water now found on the Earth/other planets/within the Solar System and beyond?

Q3 What interactions are there between the oceans and the solid Earth e.g. net flux/cycle?

Q4 How hot and wet are subduction zones? How much water is there in the recycled oceanic lithosphere? Is intra-plate volcanism triggered by fluid release from the transition zone?

Q5 Are there two classes of mantle plumes, one deep, big, temperature-driven and Another shallow, small, chemically-driven? If "small" plumes are wet, why do they differ from arcs at the surface and within the solid Earth?

Q6 Is a liquid eg. water, needed for plate tectonics? What form does tectonics assume on other planets? Does an early hydrosphere imply early plate tectonics? If there were hot primeval oceans, how do these oceans evlove from hot to cold (or vice versa)?

Q7 How did oxygen arise on the Earth?

Q8 What are the outputs of serpentinisation, and what are the implications for life, and the search for life?

Q9 What role do surface alteration processes play in the water cycle and the evolution of life?

Q10 How can we use Rare Earth Elements to help us understand other planets and satellites?

Q11 How would the Earth have to be different if it had either: a) all water trapped in the oceans, or b) all water trapped in rocks. What are the implications for dry/wet exoplanets?

Q12 What are the boundaries to the definition of a habitable zone?