Cin-Ty A. Lee

Professor of Earth Science

portrait of Dr. Cin-Ty A. Lee
  • PhD Geochemistry (2001) Harvard University
  • BA Geology (1996) University of California, Berkeley
  • Geology, geochemistry

Phone: (713) 348-5084
Office: 324 Keith-Wiess Geology Labs
Web Address:
Research Homepage
Personal Webpage

Research in this group strives to wed observations in the laboratory and field to theory. We work at the scale of microns to the scale of the whole Earth, all in an attempt to better understand how our planet has differentiated into the diverse planet we experience today. Our observational tools are the rock hammer, the petrographic microscope, mass spectrometry for trace element and isotopic studies, and spectroscopy. We use our observations to drive simple geodynamic models, ranging from growth of thermal boundary layers to the development of soil profiles.

Research Statement

C-T A Lee's research focuses on using trace element and isotopic tracers to understand various geochemical processes. Ongoing research includes the following topics: 1) geochemical and dynamic differentiation of the Earth's mantle and crust, 2) trace metal cycling in oceans and the atmosphere, and 3) origin and evolution of weathering and soil horizons.


Shen, B., Lee, C.-T. A "Global hypoxia and mass extinction at the Cenomanian-Turonian Boundry triggered by subduction zone volcanism." Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. (2009).(Submitted)

Debaille, V., Tronnes, R. G., Brandon, A. D., Waight, T. E., Graham, D. W., Lee, C.-T. A. "Four components, pseudo-binary mixing beneath Iceland and Jan Mayen Island revealed by 187Os/188Os." Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. (2009).(In Revision)

Lee, C.-T. A., Luffi, P., Plank, T., *Dalton, H. A., Leeman, W. P. "Constraints on the depths and temperatures of basaltic magma generation on Earth and other terrestrial planets using new thermobarometers for mafic magmas." Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. (2009).(In Revision)

Savov, I. P., Leeman, W. P., Lee, C.-T. A., Shirey, S. B. "Boron isotopic variations in NW USA rhyolites: Yellowstone, Snake River Plain, Eastern Oregon." Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research (2009).(In Revision)

Canil, D., Lee, C.-T. A "Were deep cratonic roots hydrated in Archean oceans? ." Geology (2009).(Submitted)

Luffi, P., Saleeby, J., Lee, C.-T. A., Ducea, M. N "Lithospheric mantle duplex beneath the central Mojave Desert revealed by xenoliths from Dish Hill, California." Journal of Geophysical Research (2009).(In Press)

Li, Z-X A, Lee, C-T A, Peslier, A, Lenardic, A, Mackwell, S J "Water contents in mantle xenoliths from the Colorado Plateau and vicinity: implications for the rheology and hydration-induced thinning of continental lithosphere." Journal of Geophysical Research, 113 (2008): doi:10.1029/2007JB005540.

Lee, C.-T. A., Luffi, P., Hoink, T., Li, Z.-X. A., Lenardic, A. "The role of serpentine in preferential craton formation in the late Archean by lithosphere underthrusting." Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 269 (2008): 10096-104.

Nijjer, S., Rogers, W. E., Lee, C.-T. A., Siemann, E. "The effects of soil biota and fertilization on the success of Sapium sebiferum." Applied Soil Ecology, 38 (2008): 1-11.

Lee, C-T A, Morton, D M, Little, M G, Kistler, R, Horodysky, U, Leeman, W P, Agranier, A "Regulating continent growth and composition by chemical weathering." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105 (2008): 4981-4985.

Miller, M. S., Lee, C.-T. A "Possible chemical modification of oceanic lithosphere by hotspot magmatism: seismic evidence from the junction of Ninetyeast Ridge and the Sumatra-Andaman arc." Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 265 (2008): 386-395.

Hoeink, T., Lee, C.-T. A., Hawthorne, J., Lenardic, A. "Paleo-viscometry of magma bodies." Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 267 (2008): 100-106.

Lee, C-T A, *Oka, M, Luffi, P, Agranier, A. "Internal distribution of Li and B in serpentinites from the Feather River Ophiolite, California based on laser ablation ICP-MS." Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems (2008).(In Press)

Courtier, A. M., Jackson, M. G., Lawrence, J. F., Wang, Z., Lee, C.-T. A., Halama, R., Warren, J. M., Workman, R., Xu, W., Hirschmann, M. M., Larson, A. M., Hart, S. R., Lithgow-Bertelloni, C., Stixrude, L., Chen, W.-P. "Correlation of seismic and petrologic thermometers suggests deep thermal anomalies beneath hotspots, Earth Planet Sci. Lett." Earth Planet. Sci. Lett, 264 (2007): 308-316.

O'Neill, C., Lenardic, A., Moresi, L., Torsvik, T. & Lee, C.-T. A "Episodic Precambrian subduction." Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 262 (2007): 552-562.

Lee, C-T A, Harbert, A, Leeman, W P "Extension of lattice strain theory to mineral/mineral rare-earth element partitioning: a tool for assessing disequilibrium and developing internally consistent partition coefficients between olivine, orthoyproxene, clinopyroxene and basaltic melt." Geochimica Cosmochimica Acta, 71 (2007): 481-496.

Lee, C-T A, Harbert, A, Leeman, W P "Extension of lattice strain theory to mineral/mineral rare-earth element partitioning: a tool for assessing disequilibrium and developing internally consistent partition coefficients between olivine, orthoyproxene, clinopyroxene and basaltic melt." Geochimica Cosmochimica Acta (2007): doi:10.1016/j.gca.2006.09.014.

Agranier, A., Lee, C.-T. A., Li, Z.-X. A., Leeman, W. P. "Fluid mobile element budgets in serpentinized oceanic lithospheric mantle: insights from B, As, Li, Pb, PGEs and Os isotopes in the Feather River Ophiolite, California." Chem. Geol., 245 (2007): 230-241.

Lee, C-T A, Morton, D M, Kistler, R W, Baird, A "Petrology and tectonics of Phanerozoic continent formation: from island arcs to accretion and continental arc magmatism." Earth Planet Sci Lett, 263 (2007): 370-387.

Lee, C-T A, Chen, W-P "Possible density segregation of subducted oceanic lithosphere along a weak serpentinite layer and implications for compositional stratification of the Earth's mantle." Earth Planet Sci Lett, 255 (2007): 357-366.

Agranier, A, Lee, C-T A "Quantifying trace-element disequilibria in mantle xenoliths and abyssal peridotites." Earth Planet Sci Lett, 257 (2007): 290-298.

Horodyskyj, U., Lee, C-T A, Ducea, M-N "Similarities between Archean high MgO eclogites and Phanerozoic arc-eclogite cumulates and the role of arcs in Archean continent formation." Earth Planet Sci Lett, 256 (2007): 510-520.

Lee, C-T A, Yin, Q-Z, Lenardic, A., Agranier, A, O'Neill, C J, Thiagarajan, N "Trace-element composition of Fe-rich residual liquids formed by fractional crystallization: implications for the Hadean magma ocean." Geochim Cosmochim Acta, 71 (2007): 3601-3615.

Ott, U., Yin, Q.-Z., Lee, C. T. "s-Process signatures in bulk presolar silicon carbide: a multi-element study." Memorie della Societa Astronomica Italiana, 77 (2006): 891-896.

Lee C.-T. A., Cheng X., and Horodyskyj U "The development and refinement of continental arcs by primary basaltic magmatism, garnet pyroxenite accumulation, basaltic recharge and delamination: insights from the Sierra Nevada, California." Contrib. Mineral. Petrol, 151 (2006): 222-242.

Yin, Q.-Z., Lee, C-T A, Ott, U. "Signatures of the s-process in presolar silicon carbide grains: barium through hafnium." Astrophysical Journal, 647 (2006): 676-684.

Little, M. G., and Lee, C-T A "On the formation of an inverted weathering profile on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania: buried paleosol or groundwater weathering?." Chemical Geology, 235 (2006): 205-221.

Levander, A., Niu, F., Lee, C.-T. A., Cheng, X. "Imag(in)ing the continental lithosphere." Tectonophysics, 416 (2006): 167-185.

Lee C.-T. A. "Geochemical/petrologic constraints on the origin of cratonic mantle." American Geophysical Union Monograph, 164 (2006): 89-114.

Li, Z-X A, and Lee, C-T A "Geochemical investigation of serpentinized oceanic lithospheric mantle in the Feather River Ophiolite, California: implications for the recycling rate of water by subduction." Chemical Geology, 235 (2006): 161-185.

Lee, C.-T. A "Trace-element evidence for hydrous metasomatism at the base of the North American lithosphere and possible association with Laramide low angle subduction." Journal of Geology, 113 (2005): 673-685.

Lee, C.-T. A., Lenardic, A., Cooper, C., Niu, F., Levander A. "The role of chemical boundary layers in regulating the thickness of continental and oceanic thermal boundary layers." Earth Planet. Sci. Lett, 230 (2005): 379-395.

Lee, C.-T. A., Leeman, W. P., Canil, D., Li, Z.X.A. "Similar V/Sc systematics in MORB and arc basalts: implications for the oxygen fugacities of their mantle source regions." Journal of Petrology, 46 (2005): 2313-2336.

Liu, Y., Shan, G., Lee, C.-T. A., Hu, S., Liu, X., Honglin, Y. "Melt-peridotite interactions: links between garnet pyroxenite and high-Mg# signature of continental crust." Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 234 (2005): 39-57.

Lee, C.-T. A., Are the core and mantle on speaking terms? Science, 306 (2004): 1-17.

Schmitz, B., Peucker-Ehrenbrink, B., Heilmann-Clausen, C., Aberg, G., Asaro, F., Lee, C.-T. A. "Basaltic explosive volcanism, but no comet impact, at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary: high-resolution chemical and isotopic records from Egypt, Spain and Denmark." Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 225 (2004): 1-17.

Niu, F., Levander, A., Cooper, C. M., Lee, C. T. A., Lenardic, A., James D. E. "Seismic Constraints on the Depth and Composition of the Mantle Keel beneath the Kaapvaal Craton." Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 224 (2004): 337-346.

Li, ZXA, Lee, CTA "The constancy of upper mantle fO2 through time inferred from V/Sc ratios in basalts: implications for the rise in atmospheric O2." Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 228 (2004): 483-493.

Thiagarajan, N., Lee, C. "Trace-element evidence for the origin of desert varnish by direct aqueous atmospheric deposition: implications for aqueous atmospheric input of metals to the ocean." Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 224 (2004): 131-141.

Lee, C., Brandon, A. D., Norman, M. D. "Vanadium in peridotites as a proxy for paleo-fO2 during partial melting: prospects, limitations, and implications." Geochimica Cosmochimica Acta, 67 (2003): 3045-3064.

Lee, C., Wasserburg, G. J., Kyte, F. T. "Platinum group elements and rhenium in marine sediments across the K-T boundary: constraints on Re-PGE transport in the marine environment." Geochimica Cosmochimica Acta, 67 (2003): 655-670.

Lee, C. "Compositional variation of density and seismic velocities in natural peridotites at STP conditions: implications for seismic imaging of geochemical heterogeneities in the upper mantle." Journal of Geophysical Research, 108 (2003): doi:10.1029/2003JB002413.

Lee, C. "Platinum-group element geochemistry of peridotite xenoliths from the Sierra Nevada and the Basin and Range, California." Geochimica Cosmochimica Acta, 66 (2002): 3987-4005.

Rudnick, R L, Lee, C. "Osmium isotope constraints on the tectonic evolution of the lithosphere in the southwestern United States." International Geology Review, 44 (2002): 501-511.

Lee, C., Yin, Q.-Z., Rudnick, R. L., Jacobsen, S. B. "Preservation of ancient and fertile lithospheric mantle beneath the southwetsern United States." Nature, 411 (2001): 69-73.

Yin, Q-Z, Jacobsen, S. B., Lee, C., McDonough, W. F., Horn, I., Rudnick, R. L. "Precise and accurate calibration of Os spike." Geochimica Cosmochimica Acta, 165 (2001): 2113-2127.

Lee, C., Yin, Q.-Z., Lee, T.-C. "An internal normalization technique for unmixing total-spiked mixtures with application to MC-ICP-MS." Computers and Geosciences, 27 (2001): 577-581.

Lee, C.-T, Yin, Q.-Z., Rudnick, R. L., Chesley, J. T., Jacobsen, S. B. "Os isotopic evidence for Mesozoic removal of lithospheric mantle beneath the Sierra Nevada, California." Science, 289 (2001): 1912-1916.

Lee, C., Rudnick, R L, Brimhall, G. H., Jr. "Deep lithosphere dynamics beneath the Sierra Nevada during the Mesozoic and Cenozoic as inferred from xenolith petrology." Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems, 2 (2001): 2001GC000152.

Lee, C., Rudnick, R. L., McDonough, W. F., Horn, I. "Petrochemical investigation of carbonates in peridotite xenoliths from northeastern Tanzania." Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, 139 (2000): 470-484.

Chesley, J. T., Rudnick, R. L., Lee, C. "Re-Os systematics of mantle xenoliths from the East African Rift: age, structure, and history of the Tanzanian craton." Geochimica Cosmochimica Acta, 63 (1999): 1203-1217.

Lee, C., Rudnick, R. L. "Compositionally stratified cratonic lithosphere: petrology and geochemistry of peridotite xenoliths from the Labait tuff cone, Tanzania." Proceedings of the 7th International kimberlite conference (1999): 503-521.

Lee, C.-T. A., Yin, Q.-Z., Lenardic, A., Agranier, A., O'Neill, C. J., Thiagarajan, N. "Do hypothetical Fe-rich residual liquids formed during crystallization of the Hadean magma ocean have the appropriate trace-element compositions to satisfy global geochemical imbalances?." Geochimica Cosmochimica Acta.(Submitted)


"Igneous and weathering processes in the origin of continents." University of Chicago. (Feb 16, 2007)

"Origin and evolution of continents." University of New Mexico. (Oct 2005)

"Origin of continental crust and deep lithosphere dynamics." Princeton University, NJ. (18 Nov 2003)

"The role of chemical boundary layers in controlling the thickness of oceanic and continental thermal boundary layers." Geological Society of America Fall Meeting, Denver, CO. (2004)

"Weathering, igneous differentiation, life and the origin of continents." University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne. (January 2008)

"Evolution of oxygen in the atmosphere and mantle: the vanadium perspective." Rensselaer Polytechnic University, New York. (3 Nov 2002)

"Life, continents, and weathering." Yale University.

"Redox-sensitive elements in the marine environment." University of Oklahoma, . (2005)

"Weathering, igneous differentiation, life and the origin of continents." Tulane University. (25 April 2008)

"Oceanic balance of redox-sensitive elements - constraining paleo-oxygen contents." University of Oklahoma, Tulsa, OK. (April, 2005)

"Origin of continental crust and deep lithosphere dynamics." University of California at Santa Cruz, CA. (28 Oct 2003)

"Role of weathering in modulating the growth of continents." UC Berkeley. (Nov 2007)

"The role of serpentine in making cratonic mantle." UC Berkeley. (16 April 2008)

"Weathering, igneous differentiation, life and the origin of continents." Harvard University. (Sep 2007)

"Making continents and continental crust." Packard Fellows Meeting, Monterey, CA. (7 Sep, 2006)

"Role of weathering in modulating the growth of continents." University of Arizona, Tucson. (Nov 2007)

"Weathering, igneous differentiation, life and the origin of continents." Boston University. (Oct 2008)

"Goldilocks problem of making continents." American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco.

"The origin of continental crust." Princeton University, . (Oct 2006)

"Weathering, igneous differentiation, life and the origin of continents." University of Southern California. (Nov 17, 2008)

"Making continental crust in arcs." University of Wyoming, . (Nov 6, 2006)

"Recycling mafic lower crust." American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA. (Dec 2007)

"Origin of continental lithospheric mantle." University of Wyoming, . (Nov 7, 2006)

"TBA." University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne UIUC. (Jan 2008)

"Making continental crust from island arcs." University of Chicago, . (Feb, 2007)

"TBA." Yale University, . (April, 2007)

"Compositional Controls on seismic velocities." IRIS meeting, Tucson, AZ.

"Continental crust formation from the Sierra Nevada and Peninsular Ranges." Penrose Conference, Valdez, Alaska. (July 2006)

"Chemical modification of continental lithosphere - implications for the physical evolution of continents." Goldschmidt Conference, Melbourne Australia. (August, 2006)

"CIDER Lecture Series." CIDER Workshop, Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics, Santa Barbara, CA. (July 2006)

"Lecture series in geochemistry/petrology." Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics. (summer 2008)


Zhengxue Li, PhD. "Redox state and water content in the upper mantle: linkages to the atmosphere, hydrosphere and continents." (2007).(Thesis or Dissertation Director)

Amy Maloy, MSc. "Lunar granulites." (2007).(Thesis or Dissertation Director)

Min Hu, MSc. "Geochemistry of redox-sensitive elements in pelagic sediments." (2007).(Thesis or Dissertation Director)

Mark Gabriel Little, PhD. "Broadening theories of soil genesis: insights from Tanzania and simple models." (2008).(Thesis or Dissertation Director)

Mark G. Little, Ph.D. "Broadening theories of soil genesis: insights from Tanzania and simple models." (2008).(Thesis or Dissertation Director)


Kuno Award, American Geophysical Union - VGP section. (2008).

Professional Experience

California Institute of Technology, Geological and Planetary Sciences, post-doctoral fellow. (2001 - ). (Pasadena, CA)