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Earth in Time Update - Autumn 2020

Earth in Time Report

Earth in Time Report

October 21, 2020

Earth in Time Report Update – Autumn 2020

EAR will continue to provide updates on our work related to the NASEM’s “Earth in Time” report in this space.  Two recommendations in the report relate to ongoing and developing activities related to CZCNs (Critical Zone Collaborative Networks) and SZ4D (Subduction Zones in Four Dimensions).  In this newsletter we would like to update you on the activities underway in EAR related to the report recommendations for CZCN and SZ4D.

Critical-Zone Collaborative Network (CZCN)

The “Earth in Time” report recommends an investigation of the Continental Critical Zone with the goal of quantifying the subsurface Critical Zone through a systematic and focused effort to generate maps of subsurface properties. The research effort would involve using theory to predict Critical Zone properties across landscapes, applying models to define the essential Critical Zone properties and identify the needed spatial resolution, and compiling field data to hypothesize the Critical Zone properties to be mapped. The methods for this effort would involve a variety of ground-based geophysical surveys, aeromagnetic mapping, satellite remote sensing, boreholes, and groundwater surveys.

Paralleling the preparation of the “Earth in Time” report, the Division of Earth Sciences launched the new Critical-Zone Collaborative Network (NSF 19-586) program. This program builds on the successes of the Critical Zone Observatories to conduct network-scale investigations of Critical Zone phenomena, processes, and gradients that can lead to comprehensive models of Critical-Zone function and evolution. This competition resulted in 10 awards that began September 1, 2020. Nine of these are “Thematic Clusters,” which pursue relevant science topics to elucidate large-scale Critical Zone characteristics beyond the confines of a single watershed or region. Results from these investigations will enable the quantification of water, carbon, and nutrient cycles, landscape evolution and hazards prediction, as well as climate interactions. These were all highlighted in the “Earth in Time” report. The Thematic Clusters are linked by a Network Coordination Hub, which will ensure data exchange and compatibility among the Clusters and carry out synthesis activities to develop a common science agenda.

The awards are listed below:


Collaborative Research: Network Cluster: Dust in the Critical Zone from the Great Basin to the Rocky Mountains


Collaborative Research: Network Cluster: Using Big Data approaches to assess ecohydrological resilience across scales


Collaborative Research: Network Cluster: Urban Critical Zone processes along the Piedmont-Coastal Plain transition


Collaborative Research: Network Cluster: Bedrock controls on the deep critical zone, landscapes, and ecosystems


Network Cluster: Patterns and controls of ecohydrology, CO2 fluxes, and nutrient availability in pedogenic carbonate-dominated dryland critical zones


Collaborative Research: Network Cluster: The Coastal Critical Zone: Processes that transform landscapes and fluxes between land and sea


Collaborative Research: Network Cluster: Quantifying controls and feedbacks of dynamic storage on critical zone processes in western montane watersheds


Network Cluster CINet: Critical Interface Network in Intensively Managed Landscapes


Collaborative Research: Network Cluster: Geomicrobiology and Biogeochemistry in the Critical Zone


Collaborative Research: Network Hub: Enabling, Supporting, and Communicating Critical Zone Research

Subduction Zone Initiative - SZ4D

The SZ4D vision emerged at an NSF-sponsored workshop in 2016 (Subduction Zone Observatory workshop).  The workshop resulted in a community report articulating the vision for a Subduction Zone Initiative to capture and model emergent earthquake, tsunami, landslide, and volcanic phenomena over space and time.   The Division of Earth Sciences (EAR) and the Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE) made three awards in 2018 for Research Coordination Networks related to the SZ4D initiative. The first is SZ4D, an overarching network that is organized into 4 interest groups: faulting and earthquake cycles, magmatic drivers of eruptions, landscapes and seascapes, and international partners. The second RCN is the Modeling Collaboratory for Subduction (MCS), an initiative to develop science-driven, physics-based community code for megathrust faulting, volcanic processes, and fluid transport. The Community Network for Volcanic Eruption Response (CONVERSE) strives to design a collaborative response in order to gather data related to precursory and eruptive processes. Each of these has completed a synthesis and integration phase and presented webinars on their results, and each is now phasing into a planning and recommendation phase. The SZ4D and MCS networks have hosted a number of webinars, which are available at their websites.  EAR and OCE also funded several workshop activities related to SZ4D.


The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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