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~ Rocks, Gems, & Geology in the News ~
 Earth Science Week | Earth Science POD
Worldwide Earthquake Activity | US Volcanic Activity |
NASA Earth Images

Shuttle' technology reveals mineral formations

Apr 14 - Technology developed in Australia is allowing drillers to detect rock formations deep in the earth and simultaneously survey the borehole—all during the drilling process. Drillers are then able to upload the data instantaneously to business centres for analysis. This is all done without traditionally used and expensive wire-line crews. more at phys.org

Grand Canyon Geology Lessons on View

Apr 14 - The Grand Canyon in northern Arizona is a favorite for astronauts shooting photos from the International Space Station, as well as one of the best-known tourist attractions in the world. The steep walls of the Colorado River canyon and its many side canyons make an intricate landscape that contrasts with the dark green, forested plateau to the north and south. more at earthobservatory.nasa.gov

Orbital 'camera' snaps marine topography

Apr 14 - In a world first, a Curtin University physicist used data from the International Space Station to map coastal bathymetry (underwater terrain). more at phys.org

Mysterious Ancient Moroccan Rock Pile Explained

Apr 14 - he origin of the giant pile of boulders a Moroccan village rests precariously on has long mystified scientists. But the mystery has now been solved: the boulders are the result of a catastrophic rockfall that occurred 4,500 years ago in the High Atlas Mountains, scientists find. A glacier apparently made the Moroccan cliffs prone to collapse, suggesting rockfalls elsewhere in the world might be due to a similar process, researchers said.  more at livescience.com

U.S. in prime position to see full lunar eclipse Tuesday

Apr 13 - Night owls and early risers in North America will be able to watch a rare celestial show on Tuesday as Earth's shadow falls across the moon, shifting its color from bright orange to blood red to brown, depending on local weather conditions. The lunar eclipse will unfold over three hours beginning at 1:58 a.m. EDT when the moon begins moving into Earth's shadow. A little more than an hour later, the moon will be fully eclipsed and shrouded in a red glow.  more at reuters.com

New Earthquake Hits Nicaragua

Apr 11 - Another powerful earthquake hit Nicaragua today (April 11), less than a day after an earthquake caused widespread damage and injuries in the capital of Managua and surrounding towns. The magnitude-6.6 temblor struck today at 2:29 p.m. local time (20:29 UTC), according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Yesterday, a magnitude-6.1 earthquake hit at 5:27 p.m. local time. more at phys.org

Science without borders

Apr 11 - It's not every day you get invited into one of the world's most secretive states. But that's precisely what happened to seismologist Dr James Hammond. Alex Peel spoke to him about what it's like to work on the Earth's most enigmatic volcano.  more at planetearth.nerc.ac.uk

Kilauea Lava Chews Through More Forest

Apr 11 - While most lava from the Pu’u ’O’o crater on Kilauea has flowed south towards the coast over the years, the most recent flow—Kahauale’a 2—is pushing northeast into ohia lehua forests in Hawaii’s interior. The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth-Observing 1 (EO-1) captured these images of Kahauale’a 2 on February 2 and March 11, 2014. more at earthobservatory.nasa.gov

Researchers decipher climate paradox from the Miocene

Apr 11 - Scientists of the German Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), have deciphered a supposed climate paradox from the Miocene era by means of complex model simulations. When the Antarctic ice sheet grew to its present-day size around 14 million years ago, it did not get colder everywhere on the Earth, but there were regions that became warmer. A physical contradiction? No, as AWI experts now found out, the expansion of the ice sheet on the Antarctic continent triggered changes in winds, ocean currents and sea ice in the Southern Ocean that in the end led to the apparently contrary developments. The scientists report this in a new study published online in the journal Nature Geoscience. more at phys.org

Dino-Killing Asteroid Impact Dwarfed by Earlier Crash

Apr 10 - Scientists have reconstructed a long-ago asteroid impact that makes the strike that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago look like a playful chuck on the chin. The enormous collision occurred 3.26 billion years ago and involved an asteroid 23 to 36 miles (37 to 58 kilometers) across — four to six times wider than the dino-killing space rock. The impact created a crater about 300 miles (500 km) wide and generated seismic waves far more powerful than those produced by any earthquake in recorded history, researchers said. more at nbsnews.com

Digging Up Old Drilling Logs to Strike Not Oil, but Water

Apr 10 - Hundreds of quadrillions of gallons of brackish water are thought to lie in the cracks, pores and fault lines below the surface. Though the water contains too much salt and other dissolved solids to be drinkable, many parched towns are interested in making the water usable through expensive desalination technology. more at nytimes.com

Geologists prove early Tibetan Plateau was larger than previously thought

Apr 10 - Earth scientists in Syracuse University's College of Arts and Sciences have determined that the Tibetan Plateau—the world's largest, highest, and flattest plateau—had a larger initial extent than previously documented. more at phys.org

Gusev Crater once held a lake after all, says ASU Mars scientist

Apr 10 - If desert mirages occur on Mars, "Lake Gusev" belongs among them. This come-and-go body of ancient water has come and gone more than once, at least in the eyes of Mars scientists. Now, however, it's finally shifting into sharper focus, thanks to a new analysis of old data by a team led by Steve Ruff, associate research professor at Arizona State University's Mars Space Flight Facility in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. The team's report was just published in the April 2014 issue of the journal Geology. more at esciencenews.com

All Jammed Up

Apr 9 - An ice jam or ice dam, is a buildup of broken ice in the river system. It can be a problem that causes the water to back up over the top of highway bridges, roads, or into cities. At times, they can cause flooding. Ice jams can be large–backing up water for miles, or small and only back up water in a small area locally.  more at usgs.gov

Study: Black carbon is ancient by the time it reaches seafloor

Apr 8 - A fraction of the carbon that finds its way into Earth’s oceans — the black soot and charcoal residue of fires — stays there for thousands for years, and a new first-of-its-kind analysis shows how some black carbon breaks away and hitches a ride to the ocean floor on passing particles. more at news.rice.edu

Antelope Canyon

Apr 8 - The Weather Channel has a short video about Antelope Canyon, near Page Arizona, was once part of an ancient ocean. This slot canyon is one of the most photographed canyons in the US. more at weatherchannel.com/video

myVolcano erupts into app stores TODAY!

Apr 7 - myVolcano is a crowd-sourcing app that will enable you to keep an eye on the active volcanoes of the world and help volcano research. Take this app with you on your travels to learn about volcanoes and volcanic eruptions from the Global Volcanism Program of the Smithsonian Institution. With your help, scientists will learn more about the distribution of volcanic ash and gases produced during future volcanic eruptions that impact the UK ultimately helping to inform government, business and airlines on the characteristics of the next eruption.  more at bgs.ac.uk

How Did Earth's Tectonic Plates Form? Scientists Offer New Explanation

Apr 7 - Earth's tectonic plates may have taken as long as 1 billion years to form, researchers report today in Nature. The plates — interlocking slabs of crust that float on Earth's viscous upper mantle — were created by a process similar to the subduction seen today when one plate dives below another, the report says. Starting roughly 4 billion years ago, cooler parts of Earth's crust were pulled downwards into the warmer upper mantle, damaging and weakening the surrounding crust. The process happened again and again, the authors say, until the weak areas formed plate boundaries. Other researchers have estimated that a global tectonic plate system emerged around 3 billion years ago.  more at huffingtonpost.com

A ’64 Quake Still Reverberates

Apr 7 - When a strong earthquake rocked northern Chile on April 1, scientists were quick with an explanation: It had occurred along a fault where stresses had been building as one of the earth’s crustal plates slowly dipped beneath another. A classic low-angle megathrust event, they called it. Such an explanation may seem straightforward now, but until well into the 20th century, scientists knew relatively little about the mechanism behind these large seismic events. But that all changed when a devastating quake struck south-central Alaska on March 27, 1964, nearly 50 years to the day before the Chilean quake.  more at nytimes.com

Weird Magnetic Anomaly Reveals Ancient Tectonic Crash

Apr 7 - The east coast of North America was once as wild as the West, with massive mountains rising between colliding tectonic plates, volcanoes belching lava and giant faults slicing the crust. That's because millions of years ago, eastern North America was part of Gondwana and Pangaea, the supercontinents that formed as Earth's tectonic plates collided, split apart, and then crashed together again before rifting and drifting toward the spots where they're located today. Clues to these ancient tectonic mash-ups remain buried deep underground. A new look at one of these clues reveals that a weird magnetic signal near Florida shows the peninsula stuck to North America's heel like a piece of old tape about 300 million years ago, when the central and southern Appalachian mountains were built.  more at nbcnews.com

Rare Earthquake Strikes Southern France

Apr 7 - An earthquake of preliminary magnitude 5.0 shook southern France today (April 7), according to France's National Seismic Monitoring Network. The earthquake's epicenter was about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the resort city of Nice and 69 miles (111 km) from Monaco. The quake originated 7 miles (11 km) deep and struck at 9:27 p.m. local time (19:27 UTC), the U.S.  more at livescience.com

Fossilized Sea Creature Has Oldest Cardiovascular System Ever Seen

Apr 7 - Scientists said on Monday they have found a fossil of a shrimp-like creature that lived 520 million years ago with an exquisitely preserved heart and blood vessels that represent the oldest-known cardiovascular system.  more at huffingtonpost.com

Tiny minerals may have shaped Earth's first plate boundaries

Apr 6 - he first sutures in early Earth's skin formed because of the weakness of rock minerals merely a millimeter wide, two scientists propose. The small minerals’ behavior created boundaries defining Earth’s first crustal plates and set the stage for plate tectonics, according to a new computer simulation appearing April 6 in Nature.  more at sciencenews.org

What is Frac Sand?

Apr 5 - "Frac sand" is a high-purity quartz sand with very durable and very round grains. It is a crush-resistant material produced for use by the petroleum industry. It is used in the hydraulic fracturing process (known as "fracking") to produce petroleum fluids, such as oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids from rock units that lack adequate pore space for these fluids to flow to a well. Most frac sand is a natural material made from high purity sandstone. An alternative product is ceramic beads made from sintered bauxite or small metal beads made from aluminum.  more at geology.com

GSA Bulletin: Rock Avalanches, Ancient Weather, Astronomical Clocks, Anoxia, and Volcanism

Apr 4 - Highlights from GSA Bulletin articles published online on 20 March through 1 April 2014 include a discussion of a catastrophic rock avalanche in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco 4,500 years ago and that village situated there now; evidence of rain and humidity in ancient soils in the western United States; a contribution to the on-going EarthTime initiative, which is working to refine and calibrate deep time geochronometers; and a call for intensive field studies in volcanic areas. more at geosociety.org

“New” Pacific Island Consumes Its Neighbor

Apr 4 - In November 2013, a seafloor volcano in the western Pacific Ocean spewed enough material to rise above the water line. The new island, or “niijima” in Japanese, sprouted just 500 meters from Nishino-shima, another volcanic island that had last erupted and expanded in 1973–74. Four months later, the new and the old are now one island, and the volcanic eruption shows no sign of abating.  more at earthobservatory.nasa.gov

Volcanic eruptions may affect oceanic microbial processes

Apr 4 - Extensive, explosive volcanic eruptions may disrupt a crucial aspect of the global nitrogen cycle, say researchers who have investigated ash deposits on the ocean floor.  more at planetearth.nerc.au.uk

Geology Spans the Minute and Gigantic, from Skeletonized Leaves in China to Water on Mars

Apr 3 - New Geology studies include a mid-Cretaceous greenhouse world; the Vredefort meteoric impact event and the Vredefort dome, South Africa; shallow creeping faults in Italy; a global sink for immense amounts of water on Mars; the Funeral Mountains, USA; insect-mediated skeletonization of fern leaves in China; first-ever tectonic geomorphology study in Bhutan; the Ethiopian Large Igneous Province; the Central Andean Plateau; the Scandinavian Ice Sheet; the India-Asia collision zone; the Snake River Plain; and northeast Brazil.  more at geosociety.org

A satellite view of volcanoes finds the link between ground deformation and eruption

Apr 3 - ESA's Sentinel satellite, due for launch on April 3rd, should allow scientists to test this link in greater detail and eventually develop a forecast system for all volcanoes, including those that are remote and inaccessible. Volcano deformation and, in particular, uplift are often considered to be caused by magma moving or pressurizing underground. Magma rising towards the surface could be a sign of an imminent eruption. On the other hand, many other factors influence volcano deformation and, even if magma is rising, it may stop short, rather than erupting.  more at esciencenews.com

Liquid Ocean Sloshes under Saturn Moon’s Icy Crust, Cassini Evidence Shows

Apr 3 - A liquid-water ocean hides under the frozen surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, new evidence confirms. The presence of this water boosts Enceladus’ ranking among the top places in the solar system to look for extraterrestrial life, scientists say.  more at scientificamerican.com

A Once-Only Cataclysmic Event and Other Mysteries of Earth's Crust and Upper Mantle

Apr 3 - The April 2014 Lithosphere is now available in print. Locations covered include the Acatlán Complex, Mexico; east Yilgarn craton, Australia; the eastern Paganzo basin, Argentina; the hotspot-related Yellowstone crescent, USA; and the western Alps. Locations investigated in four new papers published online on 2 April include the Banks Island assemblage in Alaska and British Columbia; The Diligencia basin of the Orocopia Mountains in California; a U.S. post-Grenville large igneous province; and South Island, New Zealand.  more at geosociety.org

Missouri Geosciences Technical Resource Assessment Tool

Apr 3 - The Missouri Geological Survey has recently launched a new online tool called the Missouri Geosciences Technical Resource Assessment Tool. GeoSTRAT is a web application that makes geologic and hydrologic data readily available for public use.  more at dnr.mo.gov

Magnetic anomaly deep within Earth's crust reveals Africa in North America

Apr 2 - The repeated cycles of plate tectonics that have led to collision and assembly of large supercontinents and their breakup and formation of new ocean basins have produced continents that are collages of bits and pieces of other continents. Figuring out the origin and make-up of continental crust formed and modified by these tectonic events is a vital to understanding Earth's geology and is important for many applied fields, such as oil, gas, and gold exploration.  more at geosociety.org

Vast hollow chamber within iconic Swiss mountain worries geologists

Apr 1 - Geologists have found evidence of a vast hollow chamber at the heart of the Matterhorn. Using triple-woven spectroscopic probes, they discovered and then re-created in three dimensions the enormous hollow chamber in the deep interior of the mountain.  more at phys.org

Methane-spewing microbe blamed in Earth's worst mass extinction

Apr 1 - A microbe that spewed humongous amounts of methane into Earth's atmosphere triggered a global catastrophe 252 million years ago that wiped out upwards of 90 percent of marine species and 70 percent of land vertebrates. That's the hypothesis offered on Monday by researchers aiming to solve one of science's enduring mysteries: what happened at the end of the Permian period to cause the worst of the five mass extinctions in Earth's history.  more at reuters.com

Evolution of river systems

Apr 1 - A river’s erosion downward and across a landscape is based on a variety of factors, including terrain steepness and the arrangement of tributaries. In the March 7 Science, geophysicist Sean Willett of ETH Zurich and colleagues boiled down these factors into a single parameter called χ (the Greek letter chi), which typically becomes larger as distance from a river’s mouth increases. The scientists then calculated values for and mapped it for various river networks, including the southeastern United States.  more at sciencenews.org

Kavir Desert, Iran

Mar 31 - International Space Station passed over the deserts of central Iran recently, they were greeted by this striking pattern of parallel lines and sweeping curves. The lack of soil and vegetation in the Kavir desert (Dasht-e Kavir) allows the geological structure of the rocks to appear quite clearly. The patterns result from the gentle folding of numerous, thin layers of rock. Later erosion by wind and water cut a flat surface across the dark- and light-colored folds, not only exposing hundreds of layers but also showing the shapes of the folds. The pattern has been likened to the layers of a sliced onion.  more at earthobservatory.nasa.gov

The Atlantic Ocean dances with the sun and volcanoes

Mar 31 - Natural fluctuations in the ocean temperature in the North Atlantic have a significant impact on the climate in the northern hemisphere. These fluctuations are the result of a complex dance between the forces of nature, but researchers at Aarhus University can now show that solar activity and the impact of volcanic eruptions have led this dance during the last two centuries. more at phys.org

Earthquake Swarm Doesn't Mean 'The Big One' Is Coming

Mar 31 - This past week may have had more noticeable quakes in the U.S. than most, but seismologists have been quick to point out that the ground is nearly always rumbling somewhere. U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Lucile Jones said "There's nothing about this that looks unusual," she said in a telephone interview Monday with NBC News. "We're probably making a pattern out of nothing." "Plate tectonics hasn't stopped," she added — least of all in the Los Angeles area, which shoulders a quarter of the nation's earthquake risk and where a 5.1 earthquake that hit Friday night, followed by more than 100 aftershocks.  more at nbcnews.com

Puente Hills fault

Mar 30 - The Puente Hills fault is what scientists believe could be responsible for Friday's 5.1 earthquake in La Habra. Some basic questions about the fault: at latimes.com and summary at usgs.gov

Preliminary Interpretation of P re - 2014 Landslide Deposits in the Vicinity of Oso, Washington

Mar 30 - High -resolution topographic survey's allow fairly precise mapping of landslide deposits and their relative ages . Relative ages are determined by cross -cutting relations and the amount of smoothing—more smoothed slide de posits are older —of these deposits. This report presents a preliminary interpretation of the topography of this area using a high-resolution lidar survey of the North Fork Stillaguamish River valley in 2013. more at usgs.gov

Curiosity Stops to Thwack Its Instruments, Take Amazing Panoramas

Mar 28 - On the road of life, it’s sometimes important to stop and thwack your sieve. Though NASA’s Curiosity rover is currently undertaking a long drive to the base of Mount Sharp, where it will investigate the geologic history of Mars, it’s also making time to scientifically sample the local terrain and snap some amazing photos. The rover has many months to go before its arrival at Mount Sharp, but is pausing at an outcrop nicknamed “The Kimberley” for its resemblance to a similar area in northwestern Australia. Here, it has taken some breathtaking images, such as a mosaic panorama from Mar. 27 more at wired.com

Great earthquakes, water under pressure, high risk

Mar 28 - The largest earthquakes occur where oceanic plates move beneath continents and water trapped in the boundary between both plates has a dominant influence on the earthquake rupture process. Analyzing the great Chile earthquake of February, 27th, 2010, a group of scientists from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences and from Liverpool University found that the water pressure in the pores of the rocks making up the plate boundary zone takes the key role. more at phys.org

8 Important Elements You've Never Heard Of

Mar 28 - Unless you're a real science geek, chances are you never knew these eight elements even existed. Nonetheless, many of them form the foundations of modern life. Here's a sample of the elements you'd rather not live without... more at livescience.com

Prior Great Earthquakes Unveiled at the Western Edge of the 1964 Alaska Rupture

Mar 27 - Ever since the great magnitude 9.2 earthquake shook Alaska 50 years ago today, scientists have suspected that the quake's rupture halted at the southwestern tip of Kodiak Island due to a natural barrier. However, recent research suggests some large quakes can punch through these obstacles, and have done so in the past, according to a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.  more at usgs.gov

5 Reasons Why West Coast Is More Vulnerable to Mudslides

Mar 27 - Deadly mudslides can unfold in any of the 50 U.S. states, but a combination of geologic factors makes the West Coast especially vulnerable to the type of destructive flow that pummeled northwest Washington on Saturday (March 22), geologists say. more at livescience.com

Geologists study Yilgarn's western crust

Mar 26 - A group of geologists working for the Geological Survey of Western Australia has confirmed a long-standing belief that most of the Yilgarn Craton has a similar crustal architecture. more at phys.org

AGU: New study shows major increase in West Antarctic glacial loss

Mar 26 - Six massive glaciers in West Antarctica are moving faster than they did 40 years ago, causing more ice to discharge into the ocean and global sea level to rise, according to new research. The amount of ice draining collectively from those half-dozen glaciers increased by 77 percent from 1973 to 2013, scientists report this month in Geophysical Research Letters more at esciencenews.com

Will the Yellowstone supervolcano erupt in our lifetime?

Mar 25 - "Yellowstone is one of the biggest supervolcanos in the world," he says. "Sometimes it erupts quietly with lava flow, but once or twice every million years, it erupts very violently, forming large calderas," which are very large craters measuring tens of kilometers in diameter. Ilya Bindeman, a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded scientist, doesn't think it's going to happen anytime soon--at least not for another 1 million to 2 million years.  more at nsf.gov

New Plate Tectonics Model May Explain How Continents Grow

Mar 24 - a new 3D model seeks to explain how subduction zones sweep in new continental crust and then recover from the collision. The model matches the swirling geology of eastern Australia, where a micro-continent hit more than 400 million years ago, according to the study.  more at huffingtonpost.com and phys.org

New Zealand Dust May Have Cooled Earth During Ice Age

Mar 24 - Tucked within the glacial valleys and streams of New Zealand's Southern Alps are heaps of iron-rich dust that may help explain why Earth's climate cooled during the last ice age. more at livescience.com

Off-rift volcanoes explained

Mar 23 - Volcanoes often develop outside the rift zone in an apparently unexpected location offset by tens of kilometers has remained unanswered. An international team of scientists has shown that the pattern of stresses in the crust changes when the crust thins. As a consequence, the path of the magma pockets ascending from the ponding zone is deviated diagonally to the sides of the rift. Eventually, the magma pockets emerge at distances of tens, sometime hundreds of kilometers from the rift axis.  more at phys.org

Solar activity linked to changes in ocean currents and climate

Mar 21 - A striking drop in solar activity was probably responsible for a long spell of harsh winters in northern Europe from around 1400 to 1800 known as the Little Ice Age, say scientists. The findings mean an imminent quiet period in the Sun's activity predicted by some scientists could lead to severe winters in Britain. more at planetearth.nerc.au

Drill core evidence adds credence to iron fertilization hypothesis regarding last ice age

Mar 21 - An international team of researchers has found evidence in drill core samples taken near Antarctica that adds credence to the iron fertilization hypothesis. In their paper published in the journal Science, the team describes how lowered nitrogen levels found in core samples helps bolster the idea that increased iron in the oceans during the last ice age caused a decrease in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. more at phys.org

The story of a little-known volcano that changed the world

Mar 20 - The 200th anniversary of the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history will be marked by the publication of a new book by U. of I. professor Gillen D’Arcy Wood. If you think the title character might be Vesuvius, or Krakaoa, or maybe Pinatubo, you’re wrong. Wood’s focus is Tambora – a mountain in the Indonesian archipelago that erupted so violently in April of 1815 that today, it is ranked as “super colossal” on the scientific Volcanic Explosivity Index. And the explosion was only the first dose of Tambora’s destructive power. more at news.illinois.edu

A Well-Preserved Fossilized Fern

Mar 20 - A fossil fern from 180 million years ago was recently unearthed in Sweden. It was so stunningly preserved that its nuclei and chromosomes were visible under a microscope.  more at livescience.com

The Science Behind the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami

Mar 20 - Press conference on the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami — the science behind the earthquake and tsunami, what we learned from the events, and how we are better prepared today for similar natural hazards. more at usgs.gov

Green Fracking?

Mar 19 - National Geographic article titled: “Green Fracking? 5 Technologies for Cleaner Shale Energy” explains five methods that are being employed to reduce the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing.  more at news.nationalgeographic.com

Geosphere Presents Articles Examining Lithospheric Evolution and Geologic History

Mar 19 - Geosphere articles posted online 17 Mar. 2014 include additions to two series: "CRevolution 2: Origin and Evolution of the Colorado River System II" and "Origin and Evolution of the Sierra Nevada and Walker Lane." Other articles present new seismic data for the Slate Range of California, USA; the first detailed geologic map from the Likhu Khola region of east central Nepal; and a review of pre-21st century ideas about the origin of Grand Canyon. more at geosociety.org

Leaf me alone: ancient insect blended in with foliage

Mar 19 - A number of insect species look so much like sticks or leaves that they simply blend in with the foliage, providing camouflage that helps keep them out of the beaks of hungry birds hankering for a big bite of bug. But this is no recent adaptation. An international team of scientists said on Wednesday they have discovered the fossil of an insect in China that lived about 126 million years ago whose appearance mimicked that of a nearby plant. It is the oldest-known stick or leaf insect that used such natural trickery, they said. more at reuters.com

Bare Earth Elements: Mars rocks wear manganese coats

Mar 19 - Several rocks on the surface of Mars are coated with distinctive dark-colored surface layers enriched in manganese that, while sharing similarities with manganese-rich rock varnish found on Earth, do not appear to be varnish themselves based on differences in trace element levels, according to new research  more at earthmagazine.org

Weird 'Chicken From Hell' Dinosaur Discovered In The Dakotas

Mar 19 - Paleontologists working in the Dakotas say they've discovered a new dinosaur species, Anzu wyliei, a.k.a. the "chicken from hell." Named after Anzu, a birdlike demon from ancient mythology, the feathered dinosaur roamed North and South Dakota 66 million years ago. more at huffingtonpost.com

New from Geology: Fossils, Earthquakes, Gold, and Sea-Bed Landslides

Mar 18 - Geology papers published 17 Mar. 2014 cover (1) modeling of seabed turbidity currents; (2) a large earthquake at Lake Vättern, Switzerland, about 11,500 years ago; (3) genesis of high-grade gold at the Porgera gold deposit, Papua New Guinea; (4) discovery of the Ediacaran guide fossil Cloudina sp. and the depositional age of the Bambuí Group; (5) earthquakes along the fossil Moho in Alpine Corsica; and (6) using LiDAR to better understand New Zealand's Alpine Fault.  more at geosociety.org

What Caused the Los Angeles Earthquake?

Mar 18 - A small crack unzipped Monday (March 17) under the Santa Monica Mountains north of Los Angeles, waking millions of people with Southern California's largest earthquake in years. The fracture that caused the earthquake was not on a significant fault and is unlikely to be a new source of major earthquakes.  more at livescience.com

Drone Video of Eruptions at Yasur Volcano in Vanuatu

Mar 18 - Shaun O’Callaghan posted video of small eruptions at Yasur Volcano on Tanna island, Vanuatu in the South Pacific filmed from a drone.  more at youtube.com

Robot writes LA Times earthquake breaking news article

Mar 18 - The Los Angeles Times was the first newspaper to publish a story about an earthquake on Monday - thanks to a robot writer. Journalist and programmer Ken Schwencke created an algorithm that automatically generates a short article when an earthquake occurs.  more at bbc.com

Brilliant Fireball Over Canada Sparks Meteorite Hunt

Mar 18 - Western University scientists suspect the fireball exploded about 47 miles (75 kilometers) above Port Dover, Ontario, and moved west until breaking up at an altitude of 20 miles (32 kilometers), between Aylmer and St. Thomas, about two hours west of Toronto. "In this fall, meteorites may be found in a small hole produced by their dropping into soil," university officials advised. "Meteorites are not dangerous, but any recovered meteorites should be placed in a clean plastic bag or container and be handled as little as possible to preserve their scientific information."  more at nbcnews.com

Ancient Earth hammered by double space impact

Mar 18 - Researchers have outlined some of the best evidence yet for a double space impact, where an asteroid and its moon apparently struck Earth in tandem. Using tiny, plankton-like fossils, they established that neighboring craters in Sweden are the same age - 458 million years old.  more at bbc.com

Earthquakes caused by clogged magma a warning sign of eruption, study shows

Mar 18 - New research in Geophysical Research Letters examines earthquake swarms caused by mounting volcanic pressure which may signal an imminent eruption. The research team studied Augustine Volcano in Alaska which erupted in 2006 and found that precursory earthquakes were caused by a block in the lava flow. 36 hours before the first magmatic explosions, a swarm of 54 earthquakes was detected across the 13-station seismic network on Augustine Island. By analyzing the resulting seismic waves, the authors found that the earthquakes were being triggered from sources within the volcano's magma conduit.  more at esciencenews.com

15-million-year-old bilby unearthed

Mar 18 - An ancient fossil of the bilby, Australia’s answer to the Easter rabbit, has been discovered at the Riversleigh World Heritage site in north west Queensland. The 15-million-year-old fossil of the long-eared marsupial, found by palaeontologists from The University of Queensland and the University of New South Wales, confirms that bilbies evolved millions of years earlier than was previously known. more at sciencealert.com.au

Iceland's Hekla Volcano Could Blow Soon, Claims Scientist

Mar 18 - Hekla volcano, one of Iceland's most active volcanoes, could be close to erupting, a University of Iceland geoscientist claims. The most prominent sign of an impending eruption is bulging ground on the northern side of the volcano. This surface swelling indicates magma (molten rock) is rising under the volcano, pushing up the ground as it fills fractures and pipes beneath Hekla. According to GPS monitoring of the expanding surface, there is now more magma underneath Hekla than before the volcano's last eruption in 2000.  more at nbcnews.com

Seattle’s landslide risk greater than thought

Mar 17 - Landslides have been part of Seattle’s history “from a time to which the memory of man runneth not back,” wrote famed city engineer Reginald Thomson in 1897. A new study shows that landslides will also play a central role long into the future. They will be “extensive and potentially devastating, causing direct losses and impeding recovery,” reported a team in Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. more at earthmagazine.org

Gravitational Waves from Big Bang Detected

Mar 17 - Physicists have found a long-predicted twist in light from the big bang that represents the first image of ripples in the universe called gravitational waves, researchers announced today. The finding is direct proof of the theory of inflation, the idea that the universe expanded extremely quickly in the first fraction of a nanosecond after it was born.  more at scientificamerican.com

How Tall Are Eruptions on Io and Venus?

Mar 17 - Earth isn’t the most volcanically active body in the solar system. Although we have abundant volcanism, to the tune of hundreds to thousands of active and potentially active volcanoes, if you look at the amount of land surface covered by the deposits of recent volcanism, Earth’s volcanism is confined to fairly small areas. Even so, volcanism likely played a vital role in getting life started on the Earth — and maybe it is the driving force in other parts of the solar system. The manifestation of volcanism on other planets is different than on Earth as well — some places produce giant eruption plumes (like on Io) and some might produce very small plumes (like at the newly-identified potentially active volcanoes on Venus), so why are they so different?  more at wired.com

Subduction zones reveal sulphur cycle and mineral potential

Mar 17 - Research led by West Australian scientists into 'subduction' during tectonic plate collisions has provided new insights into the global sulphur cycle. more a phys.org

New maps show smallest planet Mercury is even smaller

Mar 16 - Detailed maps of Mercury's cliffs and ditches show the solar system's innermost and smallest planet Mercury has lost much more real estate due to cooling over four billion years than scientists thought, according to a report published on Sunday. Cooling of Mercury's massive iron core has pared about nine miles from the planet's diameter, more than twice as much as previous estimates. more at reuters.com

Greenland Ice Sheet Loses Its Last Grip

Mar 16 - Greenland is losing the battle against rising air and ocean temperatures, a new study finds. The last bulwark to fall is the northeast corner of the Greenland Ice Sheet, which started shrinking rapidly in 2003, according to a new study. more at livescience.com

TopoPhotos

Mar 16 - MyTopo.com is now printing TopoPhotos, aerial photographs with contour lines and topographic map annotations lightly superimposed. They include the elevation, road and place name details of a topographic map. You can use their website to order a TopoPhoto centered anywhere in the United States and have it printed in a variety of sizes in either landscape or portrait orientation.  more at mytopo.com

Weird Extinct Dolphin Emerges From Fossils Found Along Coast

Mar 14 - A new species of extinct porpoise kept a stiff bottom lip, fossils reveal. Though closely related to living porpoises, Semirostrum ceruttii (artist’s illustration above), named for its finder, Richard Cerutti of the San Diego Natural History Museum, has a mandible shape never before seen in mammals. Its bottom jaw protruded 18 cm beyond the top one, making up 40% of the beak.  more at huffingtonpost.com

Value of U.S. Mineral Production Decreased in 2013

Mar 14 - Last year, the estimated value of mineral production in the U.S. was $74.3 billion, a slight decrease from $75.8 billion in 2012. According to the U.S. Geological Survey’s annual Mineral Commodity Summaries 2014 report, the 2013 decrease follows three consecutive years of increases. Net U.S. exports of mineral raw materials and old scrap contributed an additional $15.8 billion to the U.S. economy.  more at usgs.gov

Indian Ocean Seismic Event

Mar 14 - Scientists at the USGS National Earthquake Information Centerdetected a magnitude 2.7 seismic event to the west of Sumatra, an island in Indonesia, on March 7, 2014. They conclude it was a naturally occurring earthquake. This occurred in the Sunda-Java trench region, which is an earthquake-prone region that has been the source of two of the largest global earthquakes in the past decade. more at usgs.gov