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

Researchers figure out how oddly shaped sandstone landform structures come about

Jul 21 - A team of researchers with members from facilities in the Czech Republic and one from the U.S. has discovered the mechanism by which unique sandstone landforms take shape. In their paper published in Nature Geoscience, the team describes how their studies of sandstone in their lab led to insights about how both gravity and erosion contribute to the creation of such unique structures as Delicate Arch at Arches National Park in Utah. Chris Paola of the University of Minnesota offers a News & Views piece on the research done by the team in the same journal issue.  more at phys.org

Comet ISON fell apart earlier than realized

Jul 21 - Comet ISON was dead at least eight hours before its closest approach with the sun last fall, astronomers report July 4 in Astronomy & Astrophysics. The data, from the SOHO spacecraft, reveal the doomed comet’s final moments during its first and only visit from the farthest reaches of the solar system. more at sciencenews.org

Unlocking the Cascadia Subduction Zone's secrets: Peering into recent research and findings

Jul 20 - Once overlooked because of its relative inactivity compared to other subduction zones around the world, the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) — and the potentially devastating megathrust earthquakes and tsunamis it could unleash — are today well known to both geoscientists and the public. Beginning with the efforts of John Adams of the Geological Survey of Canada and Brian Atwater of the U.S. Geological Survey in the late 1980s, a series of oceanic research cruises and datasets has steadily advanced our understanding of Cascadia. It seems like there is “a paradigm change every few years,” says Chris Goldfinger, a geologist at Oregon State University. And just when we think we have nothing startling left to learn about this subduction zone, he says, something “startling” emerges.  more at earthmagazine.org

Europa caught red-banded

Jul 18 - A detailed close up of Jupiter's ice moon Europa shows its frozen water surface stained red in bands and ridges by water ice mixed with hydrated salts, possibly magnesium sulfate or sulfuric acid.  more at www.abc.net.au

The bend in the Appalachian mountain chain is finally explained

Jul 18 - The 1500 mile Appalachian mountain chain runs along a nearly straight line from Alabama to Newfoundland—except for a curious bend in Pennsylvania and New York State. Researchers from the College of New Jersey and the University of Rochester now know what caused that bend—a dense, underground block of rigid, volcanic rock forced the chain to shift eastward as it was forming millions of years ago. more at phys.org

Physicists Crush Diamonds With World's Largest Laser In Record-Setting Research

Jul 18 - The world’s largest laser, a machine that appeared in a Star Trek movie, has attained a powerful result: It's squeezed diamond, the least compressible substance known, 50 million times harder than Earth's atmosphere presses down on us. The finding should help scientists better understand how material behaves at the great pressures that prevail deep inside giant planets.  more at huffingtonpost.com

66-yard crater appears in far northern Siberia

Jul 18 - Russian scientists say they believe a 60-meter (66-yard) wide crater discovered recently in far northern Siberia could be the result of changing temperatures in the region. Andrei Plekhanov, a senior researcher at the Scientific Research Center of the Arctic, told the AP Thursday that the crater was mostly likely the result of a "build-up of excessive pressure" underground due to rising temperatures in the region. more at phys.org

Experts map deep magma reservoir below Washington's Mt. Rainier

Jul 18 - Experts have mapped a huge magma reservoir below Mount Rainier in Washington state that begins melting deep in the Earth's mantle before pushing upwards to where it will eventually be tapped for eruption. Researchers from the United States and Norway used seismic imaging and the measurement of variations in electrical and magnetic fields to create a detailed road map of the pathway molten rock takes to the surface.  more at reuters.com

White House Opens Door to Exploring Atlantic for Oil

Jul 18 - The Obama administration approved guidelines on Friday for seismic searches for oil and gas deposits in the Atlantic Ocean, handing the petroleum industry a significant victory in a bitter dispute with environmental groups over the searches’ impact on marine life. The decision opens the way for companies to seek permits to look for oil in a stretch of the Atlantic from Delaware to Florida, using compressed-air guns that blast the ocean bottom with thousands of sound pulses as loud as a howitzer. The pulses bounce off geologic formations deep in the earth, giving geologists hints of where oil and gas deposits may lie.  more at nytimes.com

Catastrophic debris avalanches represent a second volcanic hazard

Jul 18 - Volcanic hazards aren't limited to eruptions. Debris avalanche landslides can also cause a great deal of damage and loss of life. Stratovolcanoes, with their steep, conical shapes made up of lava and unconsolidated mixed materials, can reach a critical point of instability when they overgrow their flanks. This leads to partial collapse, and the product of this slope failure is a large-scale, rapid mass movement known as a catastrophic landslide or debris avalanche. more at geosociety.org

The rate at which groundwater reservoirs are being depleted is increasing

Jul 17 - In what parts of the world and to what degree have groundwater reservoirs been depleted over the past 50 years? The Frankfurt hydrologist Prof. Petra Döll has been researching this using the global water model WaterGAP. She has arrived at the most reliable estimate to date by taking into consideration processes which are important in dry regions of the world. more at esciencenews.com

Estimating Earthquake Frequency and Patterns in the Puget Lowland

Jul 17 - The hazard posed by large earthquakes is difficult to estimate because they often occur hundreds to thousands of years apart. Because written records for the Puget Lowland of northwestern Washington cover less than 170 years, the size and frequency of the largest and oldest earthquakes on the Seattle and Tacoma faults are unknown. Past earthquakes can only be estimated through geologic studies of sediments and landforms that are created when faults break the ground surface.  more at geosociety.org

Geophysicists prep for massive 'ultrasound' of Mount St. Helens

Jul 17 - A small army of 75 geophysicists is set to converge on Mount St. Helens this weekend to begin final preparations for the equivalent of a combined ultrasound and CAT scan of the famous volcano's internal plumbing. The ambitious project, a joint undertaking by Earth scientists at Rice University, the University of Washington, the University of Texas at El Paso and other institutions, requires placing more than 3,500 active seismological sensors and 23 seismic charges around the volcano over the next few days. more at phys.org

When a Volcano Erupts Under a Glacier You Get a Jökulhlaup

Jul 17 - Though we often think of the earth beneath our feet as static, we also know that our planet is a dynamic object. In this image, we can see how geologic processes—namely a glacial outburst flood known as a jökulhlaup—can cause major changes to an area. But in time, even these huge alterations are eroded away and the landscape can return to something close to its previous state.  more at wired.com

New answer to MRSA, other 'superbug' infections: clay minerals?

Jul 17 - Superbugs, they're called: Pathogens, or disease-causing microorganisms, resistant to multiple antibiotics. Such antibiotic resistance is now a major public health concern. "This serious threat is no longer a prediction for the future," states a 2014 World Health Organization report, "it's happening right now in every region of the world and has the potential to affect anyone, of any age, in any country." Could the answer to this threat be hidden in clays formed in minerals deep in the Earth?  more at .nsf.gov

New Insight on the Nation’s Earthquake Hazards

Jul 17 - o help make the best decisions to protect communities from earthquakes, new USGS maps display how intense ground shaking could be across the nation. The USGS recently updated their U.S. National Seismic Hazard Maps, which reflect the best and most current understanding of where future earthquakes will occur, how often they will occur, and how hard the ground will likely shake as a result. 42 States at Risk; 16 States at High Risk  more at usgs.gov

Fossils show strange sea creature's half-billion-year-old brain

Jul 16 - Researchers on Wednesday described fossilized remains unearthed in China showing in fine detail the brain structures of a bizarre group of sea creatures that were the top predators more than half a billion years ago.  more at reuters.com

Science Brings Clarity to Shifting Shores

Jul 16 - The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has created an online tool that allows anyone to interactively “see” past, present and future hazards. This tool — the USGS Coastal Change Hazards Portal — can aid in decisions that involve emergency preparedness, ecosystem restoration, and where and how to develop coastal areas.  more at usgs.gov

Rainwater discovered at new depths

Jul 15 - University of Southampton researchers have found that rainwater can penetrate below the Earth's fractured upper crust, which could have major implications for our understanding of earthquakes and the generation of valuable mineral deposits. It had been thought that surface water could not penetrate the ductile crust -- where temperatures of more than 300°C and high pressures cause rocks to flex and flow rather than fracture -- but researchers, led by Southampton's Dr Catriona Menzies, have now found fluids derived from rainwater at these levels.  more at esciencenews.com

Looking for Salt, Seeing Soil Moisture

Jul 15 - Scientists have been working hard to develop remote sensing tools to measure soil moisture on a uniform and globally consistent scale. Since 2009, the European Space Agency has been operating the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) satellite, and later this year NASA will launch the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite. In between, scientists have found a way to supplement those measurements with data from a satellite that was intended for something else.  more at earthobservatory.nasa.gov

Which Minerals Led to Life?

Jul 14 - Models of life’s origins almost always look to minerals for synthesizing molecular building blocks or for supply of metabolic energy needed for living organisms. But these models assume that the mineral classes found on Earth today are much the same as they were during Earth’s first 550 million years—the Hadean Eon—when life may have started to emerge. A new analysis of Hadean mineralogy challenges this assumption.   more at carnegiescience.edu - Summer Science, pg6

A New View of the Red Planet

Jul 14 - Get ready, because now you can explore the most comprehensive representation of Mars with a new global geologic map created by the U.S. Geological Survey. This new view of the “Red Planet’s” surface provides a framework for continued scientific investigation of Mars as the long-range target for human space exploration. more at usgs.gov and download map online - mars map

What geology has to say about global warming

Jul 14 - Last month William Menke gave a public lecture entitled, "When Maine was California," to an audience in a small town in Maine. It drew parallels between California, today, and Maine, 400 million years ago, when similar geologic processes were occurring. Afterward, a member of the audience asked me what geology had to say about global warming. The following is an expanded version of the answer. Note the use of the word geology to mean any element of the earth sciences that is focused on earth history, and do not distinguish the many sub-disciplines about which a specialist would be familiar. more at phys.org

Road Melts from Yellowstone Volcano's Heat

Jul 14 - Yellowstone National Park closed a popular road Thursday (July 10) after geothermal heat cooked the asphalt. Part of Firehole Lake Drive, a scenic one-way road off of Yellowstone's main loop, was shut down for repairs when oil bubbled to the surface, damaging the blacktop, the Park Service said in a statement. The closure doesn't affect the Grand Loop Road, which sees 20,000 visitors per day during the summer. Park spokesman Dan Hottle told Live Science that Firehole Lake Drive's surface hit 160 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius) on Thursday, about 30 degrees to 40 degrees F (17 to 22 degrees C) hotter than usual.  more at news.discovery.com

USGS says seven small earthquakes shake central Oklahoma

Jul 13 - The U.S. Geological Survey has recorded seven small earthquakes shaking central Oklahoma in a span of about 14 hours. The temblors are part of an increase in earthquakes across Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas that some scientists say could be connected to the oil and gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, and especially the wells in which the industry disposes of its wastewater. more at phys.org

Australia drying caused by greenhouse gases

Jul 13 - NOAA scientists have developed a new high-resolution climate model that shows southwestern Australia's long-term decline in fall and winter rainfall is caused by increases in man-made greenhouse gas emissions and ozone depletion, according to research published today in Nature Geoscience.

Ongoing aftershocks in the wake of eastern Arizona's M5.2 earthquake

Jul 11 - Earthquake aftershocks of about magnitude (M) 3 continue to lightly rattle Duncan, Arizona and environs. The latest event, a M3.6 temblor, was felt 30 miles north in Morenci, Arizona. Aftershocks stem from the M5.2 earthquake that struck near Duncan, Arizona (approximately 40 miles east of Safford), on the evening of June 28. Since the M5.2 event, 14 felt aftershocks (from M2.8 to M3.9) have rattled the area around Duncan in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.  more at www.azgs.az.gov

From the Age of Dinosaurs, Hard Clues

Jul 11 - Of all the plants that can be found at David Blersch’s 22-acre farm on Horse Fence Hill Road in Southbury, the one that has drawn the most attention is as hard as a rock. It is fossilized — petrified wood — and is now featured in the “Connecticut’s Petrified Forest” exhibition at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven.  more at nytimes.com

The death of the Sirius debate

Jul 11 - A debate about the historical stability of the Antarctic ice sheet has raged for decades, splitting the community of scientists studying the ancient climate along increasingly partisan lines. It concerns the evolution of the ice sheet's thermal condition - that is, how fixed it is to its bed, how stable it is, and how it has contributed to global sea levels through geological time. Our efforts to settle these questions have included several expensive offshore and onshore drilling campaigns. Yet until recently, no resolution has been in sight. Now the definitive answer has come from an unexpected direction - from studies of Antarctic volcanoes that have erupted under the ice cap.  more at planetearth.nerc.ac.uk

Researchers find evidence of super-fast deep earthquake

Jul 10 - Scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have discovered the first evidence that deep earthquakes, those breaking at more than 400 kilometers (250 miles) below Earth's surface, can rupture much faster than ordinary earthquakes. The finding gives seismologists new clues about the forces behind deep earthquakes as well as fast-breaking earthquakes that strike near the surface. more at phys.org

Earth's Magnetic Field Is Fading & May Be Ready To Flip

Jul 10 - Earth's magnetic field  has been weakening over the past six months, according to data collected by a European Space Agency (ESA) satellite array called Swarm. The biggest weak spots in the magnetic field — which extends 370,000 miles (600,000 kilometers) above the planet's surface — have sprung up over the Western Hemisphere, while the field has strengthened over areas like the southern Indian Ocean, according to the magnetometers onboard the Swarm satellites. The scientists who conducted the study are still unsure why the magnetic field is weakening, but one likely reason is that Earth's magnetic poles are getting ready to flip.  more at huffingtonpost.com

Huge Trove of Dinosaur Footprints Discovered in Alaska

Jul 9 - A "world-class" dinosaur track site discovered in Alaska's Denali National Park shows that herds of duck-billed dinosaurs thrived under the midnight sun. "We had mom, dad, big brother, big sister and little babies all running around together," said paleontologist Anthony Fiorillo, who is studying the dinosaur tracks. "As I like to tell the park, Denali was a family destination for millions of years, and now we've got the fossil evidence for it."  more at news.yahoo.com

Fossil of biggest-known flying seabird found

Jul 8 - Fossilised bird bones uncovered in the US represent the largest flying bird in history, with a wingspan of 6.4 metres, say researchers. Their findings, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show the bird's wings were twice as long as the biggest modern-day seabird, the royal albatross. Coupled with its long beak and sharp bony teeth, Pelagornis sandersi's enormous wings likely helped the bird master long periods of gliding over water in search of seafood some 25 to 28 million years ago.  more at www.abc.net.au

Fossil of world's smallest hedgehog unearthed in Canada

Jul 8 - Scientists on Tuesday described fossils from Canada of a hedgehog the size of a shrew about 2 inches (5 cm) long - that lived 52 million years ago in a rainforest in northern British Columbia during an especially warm time on Earth. The creature, Silvacola acares, lived roughly 13 million years after an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs and left the mammals as the dominant land animals. About the length of a person's thumb, it ate insects, plants and maybe seeds, the researchers said.  more at reuters.com

Why Canada Needs to Unlock the Unknowns of Its Icy Methane Reserves

Jul 8 - It is often called “fire ice”: Around the world, cage-like lattices of water molecules trap untold stores of methane gas. Petroleum engineers have been familiar with these frozen compounds—properly known as methane hydrates—for years, because they block the flow of oil in pipelines. The effects of methane hydrates were highlighted in 2010, when British Petroleum’s attempts to halt the flow of oil after the Macondo well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico were complicated by the formation of methane hydrates that kept clogging pipes and valves. Yet methane hydrates are potentially a cleaner burning, enormous energy resource, one that may contain enough natural gas to power the world for millennia and firmly secure the use of fossil fuels to meet energy demand.  more at nationalgeographic.com

Strong Earthquake Rattles Southern Mexico

Jul 7 - An earthquake of preliminary magnitude 7.1 struck today along the Pacific coast of southern Mexico's state of Chiapas, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).  more at livescience.com

Peru's petrified forest: The struggle to study and preserve one of the world’s most remarkable fossil sites

Jul 7 - Tucked high in the Andes Mountains of northern Peru is a remarkable fossil locality: a 39-million-year-old petrified forest preserved in nearly pristine condition. With its existence unknown to scientists until the early 1990s — and its significance unbeknownst to villagers — this ancient forest hosts the remains of more than 40 types of trees, some still rooted, that flourished in a lowland tropical forest until they were suddenly buried by a volcanic eruption and a series of roiling torrents of mud and debris known as lahars. more at .earthmagazine.org

Denali Duck-Billed Dino Tracks

Jul 7 - A trio of paleontologists has discovered a remarkable new tracksite in Alaska’s Denali National Park filled with duck-billed dinosaur footprints -- technically referred to as hadrosaurs -- that demonstrates they not only lived in multi-generational herds but thrived in the ancient high-latitude, polar ecosystem. The paper provides new insight into the herd structure and paleobiology of northern polar dinosaurs in an arctic greenhouse world.  more at .geosociety.org

Rewriting the history of volcanic forcing during the past 2,000 years

Jul 6 - A team of scientists led by Michael Sigl and Joe McConnell of Nevada's Desert Research Institute (DRI) has completed the most accurate and precise reconstruction to date of historic volcanic sulfate emissions in the Southern Hemisphere.  more at phys.org

The Last Drop: America's Breadbasket Faces Dire Water Crisis

Jul 6 - The scope of this mounting crisis is difficult to overstate: The High Plains of Texas are swiftly running out of groundwater supplied by one of the world’s largest aquifers – the Ogallala. A study by Texas Tech University has predicted that if groundwater production goes unabated, vast portions of several counties in the southern High Plains will soon have little water left in the aquifer to be of any practical value. This story is one in a series on a crisis in America's Breadbasket –the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer and its effects on a region that helps feed the world. more at nbcnews.com

Birds' Feathers First Evolved Before Flight, Researchers Say

Jul 6 - The bladed, quill-like feathers of modern birds are essential for flight, and over millions of years they have become highly specialized for this purpose. But this may not be the reason they first evolved, say researchers studying an unusually complete fossil of the world’s first bird, Archaeopteryx. Instead, the team believes birds first grew these feathers for other purposes, such as insulation or mating display. The discovery raises the intriguing prospect that flight may have developed multiple times in the ancestors of birds.  more at huffingtonpost.com

"Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!"

Jul 5 - The discovery of gold on January 24, 1848 by James Marshall at Sutter's Sawmill on the South Fork of the American River started a bonanza that brought California global fame and gave it the title of the "Golden State". Gold is the state's mineral. The California Department of Conservation has a gold resource page that covers gold discovery, prospecting for gold, historic mines, active mines, photographs, and much more about gold.  more at .consrv.ca.gov

Flightless dino-bird wore full-body feathers

Jul 3 - A fully feathered fossil of the dinosaur-like bird Archaeopteryx is ruffling scientists’ understanding of what drove early feather evolution, scientists report July 2 in Nature. The team compared the fossil’s feather layout to the distribution of feathers on other fossils, including both dinosaurs and early birds, and found a surprising amount of variation between species. The researchers say this range of feather patterns implies that many different feather uses, such as insulation and mating displays, drove the evolution of early plumage. Only later were feathers repurposed for flight, the team concludes.  more at sciencenews.org

The Elements of a Dazzling Fourth of July

Jul 3 - The minerals that produce the brilliant colors in fireworks also bring water and electricity to your home, help to produce the vehicles and fuel needed for travel, and have many other every day uses. more at usgs.gov/blog

BGS maps help understand relationship between groundwater and fracking.

Jul 3 - The British Geological Survey (BGS) in partnership with The Environment Agency (EA) have today, for the first time, published a series of maps which show the depth to each shale gas and oil source rock below principal groundwater aquifers in England and Wales. Understanding the distance between the two is important when assessing the environmental risks of shale gas and oil exploitation.  more at bgs.ac.uk

Dissolved iron in North Atlantic traced to sources

Jul 3 - Iron is present in tiny concentrations in seawater. On the order of a few billionths of a gram in a liter. Given that there is so little iron in seawater, one might conclude that its presence there is inconsequential. Hardly. Iron is one of the essential elements of life. Found in enzymes like myoglobin and hemoglobin and cytochrome P450, iron is an essential cog in the biomachinery of every living cell. And its scarcity in the ocean, the earth's wellspring of life, only magnifies its importance. more at phys.org

Oklahoma earthquakes triggered by wastewater injection

Jul 3 - Pumping wastewater underground may rock Oklahoma. Vast quantities of water left over from oil and gas extraction and then injected into disposal wells may have set off a surge of earthquakes that has shaken the state since 2008. And disposal wells don’t just trigger quakes nearby. Tremors can rattle the ground up to 35 kilometers away — much farther than scientists had previously thought, researchers report July 3 in Science. The new study is the most definitive to link Oklahoma’s rocketing earthquake numbers to fluid injection, says seismologist Steve Horton of the University of Memphis in Tennessee. more at sciencenews.org

Watching an Eruption at Perú’s Ubinas

Jul 2 - One of the more active volcanoes right now is Ubinas. The Peruvian volcano has produced a series of explosive eruptions that have dusted the region with ash and caused alarm amongst the local residents, but thankfully not caused much in the way of real damage. This has been the pattern over the past few months at Ubinas with either plugs in the vent or steam driven the relatively small explosions. With the clear weather and a great vantage point, the webcam pointed at Ubinas by the Instituto Geofísico del Perú has captured some of these explosions in great detail — such as the one on June 30, 2014.

How Extinct Undersea Volcanoes Trigger Rare 'Tsunami Earthquakes'

Jul 1 - How unusual slow earthquakes can spawn powerful tsunamis is a long-standing mystery that researchers may have finally solved. Called "tsunami earthquakes," these slow quakes are capable of creating huge waves that can cause serious damage to coastal cities.  more at nbcnews.com

Big Quakes Double in 2014, But They're Not Linked

Jul 1 - If you think there have been more earthquakes than usual this year, you're right. A new study finds there were more than twice as many big earthquakes in the first quarter of 2014 as compared with the average since 1979.  more at news.discovery.com

2-D model may help explorers find reservoirs of the 'ice that burns'

Jul 3 - A decade of research by Rice University scientists has produced a two-dimensional model to prove how gas hydrate, the "ice that burns," is formed under the ocean floor. more at phys.org

Photo Timeline: How the Earth Formed

Jun 30 - Take a tour through the fascinating geologic record left behind by the major milestones in Earth's 4.5 billion years.  more at livescience.com

The Carboniferous shales of the Midland Valley of Scotland: geology and resource estimation

Jun 30 - The British Geological Survey (BGS) in association with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has completed an estimate for the amount of shale gas and oil in the Midland Valley of Scotland.  more at bgs.ac.uk

Researchers Discover “Bizarre” Jurassic Insect With Giant Sucker

Jun 30 - An international team of researchers recently described this 165-million-year-old fossilized fly larvae that they found in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region in northeastern China once studded with volcanoes and freshwater lakes. They named the species Qiyia jurassica (“Qiyia” is derived from the Chinese word for “strange”), and with good reason: Its unusual features include an upper abdomen that had been converted into a giant sucker, which it used to slurp the blood of local salamanders.  more at nationalgeographic.com

Dodging Hot Volcanic Bombs at Dukono Volcano, Indonesia

Jun 29 - View from crater rim of powerful explosive eruptions of Dukono volcano on Halmahera Island, Indonesia. Unexpectedly powerful explosive eruptions throw hail of volcanic bombs, many narrowly missing or landing on flank behind observers.

Creeping Up on Unsuspecting Shores: The Great Lakes, in a Welcome Turnaround

Jun 28 - after reaching historic lows in 2013, water levels in the Great Lakes are now abruptly on the rise, a development that has startled scientists and thrilled just about everybody with a stake in the waterfront, including owners of beach houses, retailers in tourist areas and dockmasters who run marinas on the lakeshore. Lakes Michigan, Huron and Superior are at least a foot higher than they were a year ago, and are expected to rise three more inches over the next month. Lake Ontario and Lake Erie are seven to nine inches higher than a year ago. more at nytimes.com

Extinct undersea volcanoes squashed under Earth's crust cause tsunami earthquakes

Jun 27 - The new study, published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, reveals that tsunami earthquakes may be caused by extinct undersea volcanoes causing a "sticking point" between two sections of the Earth's crust called tectonic plates, where one plate slides under another. more at phys.org

Tracing the Earth’s hottest volcanoes from core to ore

Jun 27 - In a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a group of scientists set out to find how the hottest and rarest type of volcanoes – the ancient komatiites – were formed. Knowing how and why komatiites are concentrated in specific belts could help discover new ore deposits, potentially worth billions of dollars.  more at theconversation.com

Photo Journal: The Gorgeous San Andreas Fault

Jun 27 - The San Andreas Fault is the most famous fault in the world. In the Colorado Desert of Southern California it begins near the Salton Sea and expresses itself in parts of the Coachella Valley by a range of small mountains, known as the Indio Hills that are fractured and run in various directions as a result of the collision of the Pacific and North American Continental Plates.  more at livescience.com

Research provides new theory on cause of ice age 2.6 million years ago

Jun 27 - New research published today in the journal Nature Scientific Reports has provided a major new theory on the cause of the ice age that covered large parts of the Northern Hemisphere 2.6 million years ago. The study found a previously unknown mechanism by which the joining of North and South America changed the salinity of the Pacific Ocean and caused major ice sheet growth across the Northern Hemisphere. more at phys.org

Walking the Rocks: GSA Today Article Studies Undergraduate Field Education

Jun 26 - In the July 2014 issue of GSA Today, Heather Petcovic of Western Michigan University and colleagues Alison Stokes and Joshua Caulkins examine the question of geoscientists' perceptions of the value of undergraduate field education. Despite being perceived as integral to both geoscience learning and professional preparation, little research exists on the types of field experiences that carry the most value.  more at geosociety.org

The Randolph Glacier Inventory

Jun 26 - Sea levels are rising because water expands when it warms up, but also because ice has been melting. The biggest challenge in figuring out how much ice melt will cause sea levels to rise is the lack of information about how much ice glaciers currently hold, says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The recently published Randolph Glacier Inventory is the first global catalog of glaciers, and it was developed to help IPCC scientists improve estimates of sea level rise. The top image shows the complete Randolph Glacier Inventory.  image an more at earthobservatory.nasa.gov

New volcanos found in Victoria

Jun 26 - Geologists have discovered three previously unrecorded volcanoes in volcanically active southeast Australia. Covering an area of 19,000 square kilometres in Victoria and South Australia, with over 400 volcanoes, the Newer Volcanics Province (NVP) features the youngest volcanoes in Australia including Mount Schank and Mount Gambier. more at phys.org

Mineralogy of Newfound Planets Could Point to Habitability

Jun 25 - Astrobiologists hope that the detection of certain minerals on exoplanets by ever-more-sensitive space telescopes could indicate biochemical processes associated with life.  more at www.scientificamerican.com

Visualize This: Carbon Storage Tool for Now and the Future

Jun 25 - Announced on the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan (310 KB PDF; page 16 - Providing a Toolkit for Climage Resilience), a new “Land Carbon Viewer” allows users to see the land carbon storage and change in their ecosystems between 2005 and 2050 in the lower 48 states. The Land Carbon Viewer Website, developed by U.S. Geological Survey in collaboration with the University of California-Berkeley, is based on the national biological carbon assessment for ecosystems, completing the carbon inventory for the lower 48.  more at usgs.gov

Scatological science: oldest human poop fossils no laughing matter

Jun 25 - Don't laugh, but the discovery of the oldest known human poop is offering valuable scientific insight into the life of Neanderthals who lived in Spain some 50,000 years ago. Scientists said on Wednesday they found five samples of human fecal matter at an archeological site called El Salt, in the floor of a rock shelter where Neanderthals once lived.  more at reuters.com

3-D Printer for the World's Largest Delta?

Jun 24 - Three main rivers — the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna — meet in the Bengal basin to form the world's largest delta system, which serves as a gateway between the Himalayan mountains and the vast, deep-ocean Bengal Fan. This GSA BULLETIN paper by Stephen Goodbred and colleagues presents a new understanding of how this mega-delta, the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna delta, came together over the past 10,000 years.  more at geosociety.org

Hottest lava eruption linked to growth of first continents

Jun 24 - The study, published today in the prestigious international journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, used a combination of different radiogenic isotopes to show that in the early evolutionary stages of our planet, the formation and stabilisation of continents also controlled the location and extent of major komatiite volcanic eruptions. more at phys.org

NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover Marks First Martian Year

Jun 23 - NASA's Mars Curiosity rover will complete a Martian year -- 687 Earth days -- on June 24, having accomplished the mission's main goal of determining whether Mars once offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.  more at jpl.nasa.gov

Getting ready for the next big one

Jun 23 - Istanbul, with nearly 14 million inhabitants, is one of the largest cities in the world. But this thriving metropolis sits on the edge of one of the fastest moving faults in the world: the North Anatolian Fault. This is a system of large fractures within the Earth on which energy, from the motion of the tectonic plates, is stored and released in earthquakes. The North Anatolian Fault is roughly 1300km long, running along the entire length of northern Turkey from the Aegean Sea in the west to Lake Van in the east. It slips such that central and southern Turkey are moving west relative to northern Turkey at speeds of 20-30mm a year. It is the most active and destructive earthquake-prone fault system in Turkey. It has been known for a while now that earthquakes on the fault tend to follow a regular sequence.  more at planetearth.nerc.ac.uk

Strong Earthquake Strikes Alaska's Aleutian Islands

Jun 23 - A powerful magnitude-8.0 earthquake struck the Rat Islands in Alaska's Aleutian Island chain today (June 23), according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).The earthquake struck at 12:53 p.m. local time at a depth of 71 miles (114 kilometers), the USGS said. Several strong aftershocks have already followed this afternoon, including a magnitude-6 and a magnitude-5.9, the USGS reports.  more at livescience.com

It’s Frack, Baby, Frack, as Conventional Gas Drilling Declines [Infographic]

Jun 23 - Hydraulic fracturing has offset dwindling traditional sources, but that trend may not last long... more at scientificamerican.com

Mysterious Earthen 'Mima' Mounds Created by Plants, Not Animals

Jun 23 - n the prairies of Washington, hundreds of large, vegetation-topped mounds — dubbed mima mounds — cover the landscape in a seemingly non-random pattern. Over the years, scientists have proposed numerous theories to explain these and other mimalike mounds across the globe, the most popular of which implicate animals, particularly gophers and termites, for the pimply blemishes. But these fauna may deserve an apology, according to a new study, in which scientists argue that natural processes involving the spatial patterning of plants produce mimalike mounds.  more at livescience.com

Mineral Resource of the Month: Niobium

Jun 22 - Niobium, also called columbium, is a transition metal with a very high melting point. It is in greatest demand in industrialized countries, like the United States, because of its defense-related uses in the aerospace, energy and transportation industries. Niobium is used mostly to make high-strength, low-alloy (HSLA) steel and stainless steel. HSLA steels are used in large-diameter pipes for oil and natural gas pipelines and automobile wheels. more at earthmagazine.org