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Erik H. Hauri

In 2000 Erik Hauri received the F. G. Houtermans Medal from the European Association of Geochemistry for his outstanding contributions to geochemistry as a young researcher. That same year he was also awarded the James B. Macelwane Medal by the American Geophysical Union.


An image of a melt inclusion

Erik Hauri studies melt inclusions (tiny bits of melt trapped in crystals) with the ion microprobe to determine the origins of volatile elements in the Earth's interior. This melt inclusion is from mid-ocean-ridge magma from the Siqueiros Fracture Zone, Pacific Ocean.

(Photo courtesy Alberto Saal, Brown University.)

Material in the atmosphere, the oceans, and the interior of the Earth circulates as a result of convection-the fluid motion that is driven by temperature variations and gravity. Geochemist Erik Hauri studies the movement of matter in planetary interiors and the origin and role of water in volcanic systems on Earth and the other terrestrial planets. Analysis of different atomic species, or isotopes, combined with numerical modeling and seismic imaging techniques are revealing what goes on inside the rocky planets and the timing of processes that occurred during planetary evolution. Hauri uses high-precision, highly sensitive mass spectrometry and other methods to analyze the composition of magma samples from Earth and meteorites and determine their implication for the composition and evolution of solar system bodies. He also directs the Carnegie-National Science Foundation National Ion Microprobe Facility - a resource for scientists from around the world to make in situ geochemical measurements at the micron scale.

Plate tectonics powers the convective process in Earth's interior, and the presence of liquid water at the surface is thought to be a primary factor in keeping this system active. By investigating magmas, Hauri's analyses have revealed that water plays a significant role in magma generation and differentiation in a variety of planetary environments. His work also sheds light on the primordial conditions under which the Earth formed. When the Earth was accreting, it became a sea of molten rock. The interior became partly depleted in the volatile elements - hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur - a loss that continues today through the eruption and outgassing from active volcanoes.

Venus has outgassed water, but atmospheric water has been broken down by solar ultraviolet radiation and the hydrogen lost to space. Water on Mars is believed to be partly frozen as ice and trapped in the crust. The lack of active plate tectonics on the other terrestrial planets and other factors have led scientists to believe that water from the Earth's surface is carried into the interior by plate subduction - the process in which the edge of one plate descends below another - and serves as the lubricant that facilitates continued plate motions. Water-rich explosive volcanism occurring at subduction zones confirms that water is carried down with the descending plate. But two major questions about the water budget at subduction zones remain unanswered: How much of the water that goes down into subduction zones comes back up at volcanic eruptions, and how much water is left in the subducting plate? Hauri is currently exploring these and related questions.


  • Hauri, E. H. 2002. Osmium isotopes and mantle convection, Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc.
    London Ser. A 360, 2371-2382.

  • Hauri, E. H. 2002. SIMS investigations of volatiles in silicate glasses 2: abundances
    and isotopes in Hawaiian melt inclusions, Chem. Geol. 183, 115-141.

  • Saal, A., E. H. Hauri, C. H. Langmuir, and M. Perfit. 2002. Vapor undersaturation in
    primitive mid-ocean ridge basalt and the volatile content of the Earth's upper mantle,
    Nature 419, 451-455.

  • Van Keken, P. E., E. H. Hauri, and C. J. Ballentine. 2002. Mantle mixing: generation,
    preservation, and destruction of chemical heterogeneity, Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 30,

  • Hauri, E. H. 1996. Major element variability in the Hawaiian mantle plume, Nature 382,

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