Geology in the News

I'm sorry to tell you that after 12 years I will no longer continue this page. I do not teach Geology 1 any more, and have other commitments. I'll keep the page open, for what it's worth, but won't be adding new material.

Geology in the News

  • April 11, 2012. The world's worst man-made sinkhole problem: at Berezniki, in Russia. The citt is built over potash mines, which work by dissolving potash deposits below the surface. New York Times

  • April 4, 2012. New light on the PETM (Paleocene/Eocene Thermal maximum). New research on the end-Eocene warming (and similar smaller events around the same time) suggests that the warming may have been due to methane release from melting permafrost as well as (or instead of) melting of methane clathrate in seafoor sediments. This may be relevant to current global warming. The paper is in Nature this week. The Guardian

  • March 29, 2012. Venice is sinking for geological reasons not related to human activity: and that's bad news for its future. Science News

  • March 7, 2012. Lava destroys the last house in the ill-fated Royal Gardens subdivision, built downstream of the Pu'o'o volcanic vent on Hawai'i. Honolulu Star Advertiser

  • March 5, 2012. The lake in the Hunza Valley ("Lake Gojal") has dropped as much as it's going to. Upstream, former fields and villages have been drained, but the field will not be ready to plant for this year's growth season. And soon the spring melt will raise the level again. So, so far so good, but it is a long way from solving the problems faced by the Hunza people. Pamir Times

  • March 4, 2012. Etna has its third "paroxysm" of 2012. erik K;emetti's Eruptions blog

  • March 2, 2012. NASA article summarizing the state of the lake and spillway on the Hunza River. reprinted in the Pamir Times

  • February 27, 2012. The spillway on the blocked Hunza River has been engineered to lower the lake. It's not clear how much the level will fall. And if the engineers did not do a good job, there may be trouble as the lake begins to rush across the new engineered spillway.

  • February 16, 2012. NASA satellite image of the underwater eruption near El Hierro, in the Canary Islands. NASA Earth Obsevatory

  • February 13, 2012. The devastation caused by illegal gold mining in the Amazon rain forest. Smithsonian magazine, February 2012

  • February 9, 2012. Lucille (Lucy) Jones, the earthquake lady from Pasadena. (There's a song there!) Smithsonian magazine, February 2012

  • February 8, 2012. Aftermath of the large M6.7 earthquake on Negros Island in the Philippines. The main cause of death seems to have been landslides triggered by the quake, which buried villages and homes. We do not have a number of the missing yet, but it is probably in the hundreds, now presumed dead. Terra Daily

  • February 8, 2012. The mystery eruption of 1258 AD. Eruptions blog by Erik Klemetti

  • February 8, 2012. A Russian scientific drilling team has reached under-ice Lake Vostok. Science Insider

  • February 1, 2012. New dome growth and activity at Cleveland volcano, in the Aleutians. wired.com

  • January 16, 2012. Meteorites blasted off Mars reached Earth last July. USA Today

  • January 6, 2012. New activity at the underwater vent at El Hierro, in the Canary Islands. Erik Klemetti's Eruptions blog. For previous information, see November 28, 2011.

  • January 5, 2012. Another paroxysm of action at Etna, obviously the first of the New Year. Meanwhile, enjoy a Boris Behncke photo-review of Etna 2011. EtnaBoris set from 2011

  • January 4, 2012. It is two years since a landslide blocked the Hunza River and the Karakoram Highway in the mountains of Pakistan. Nothing significant has been done to alleviate the problem.... Pamir Times

  • December 27, 2011. New volcanic island along the rift at the south end of the Red Sea. NASA Earth Observatory

  • December 23, 2011. Two more big aftershocks rattle Christchurch, New Zealand. Terra Daily

  • December 20, 2011. What do "habitable" exoplanets really look like? We don't have a clue, actually. But that doesn't stop people from seculationg, some with more self-discipline than others. Notice that the artist commissioned by NASA for the latest one (see entry for December 5, 2011) fudged his digital planet toward the blue-green, and added wispy white clouds. Wired Science

  • December 19, 2011. The geological origin of the big stones at Stonehenge is identified with high precision. Wired Science

  • December 16, 2011. Outstanding volcano images from 2011, from The Atlantic magazine. The Atlantic

  • December 13, 2011. Lava from Pu'u O'o has reached the ocean again on the south coast of Hawaii.

  • December 8, 2011. Water on Mars. Yes, we knew that. The new evidence adds to the already existing pile. But when, and how much, and how toxic was it? Evidence so far suggests that water was present on te very early Mars, but it has so much salt/sulfur that it would have been inhospitable to life. Wired Science

  • December 7, 2011. The Dead Sea dried up completely about 120,000 years ago. Erik Klemetti on Wired Science

  • December 5, 2011. NASA says it has found a potentially habitable planet. This is Kepler-22b, 600 light years away, orbuting a star a little smaller and cooler than ours, at a distance that is said to be in the middle of the "habitable zone" calculated for this star. The planet is 2.4 times the size of Earth. But beware! This is NASA, after all. The mass of the planet is unknown. If it is too small to hold in major atmospheric gases, then Kepler 22b will be cold and dead, like the Moon, or Mercury. If the mass is too large, then a massive atmosphere of carbon dioxide will make Kepler 22b a hellish desert like Venus. So: great press release, shoddy science not to mention the caveats. Wired Science

  • December 4, 2011. Eruption of Tungurahua, in Ecuador. Terra Daily

  • November 28, 2011. The continuing underwater eruption near El Hierro, in the Canaries.

  • November 22, 2011. The landslide that took out the coast road near San Pedro, California, is so severe that the road cannot be repaired.

  • November 22, 2011. Ash from the ongoing eruption in Northern Chile again disrupted flights over a wide area. Terra Daily. Previous story: October 4, 2011.

  • November 21, 2011. Continued lava flow from Pu'u O'o crater in Hawaii: small-scale.

  • November 20, 2011. New eruption of Popocatepetl. At the moment it is a small ash-and-steam eruption. Terra Daily

  • November 17, 2011. A new record for drilling in deep water. Shell has drilled a new well 9627 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. Houston Chronicle

  • November 16, 2011. Etna has eruption number 18 for the year. Erik Klemetti's Eruptions blog, with links

  • November 15, 2011. A rare yellow diamond has sold for over $10 million. 110 carats, from South Africa. BBC News OnLine

  • November 14, 2011. The eruption of Nyamuragira gets bigger.
  • November 7, 2011. Mining the tar sands of Alberta: what does it look like? Wired Science photogallery

  • November 4, 2011. Anglo American is to buy control of De Beers. Truly the end of an era! BBC News

  • November 4, 2011. Asteroid 2005 YU 55 will pass close to Earth on Tuesday. No chance of impact, but a good opportunity for astronomers. Reuters

  • November 3, 2011. El Hierro, in the Canaries: continued underwater activity, several miles from the island. Posts from Erik Klemetti's Eruptions blog:

  • November 2, 2011. Hydraulic fracking categorically linked with tiny earthquakes in Britain. BBC News

  • October 28, 2011. Update from the Hunza Valley. There is no progress on work to lower the lake level. Over 100 boats are carrying the traffic up and down the lake between the severed ends of the Karakorum Highway. There is no regulation on the boats or their drivers. A particularly bad accident sank a boat carrying a valuable load. Hunza Times, October 28. For status of the problem, see October 2, 2011.
  • October 24, 2011. A 7+ earthquake struck eastern Turkey. Estimates are now over 600 for the death toll. Images show classic destruction of poorly designed modern concrete and steel buildings.

  • October 25, 2011. Another rise in activity at Etna has caused the closure of the airport at Catania.

  • October 8, 2011. Etna's 16th burst of activity in the present sequence. Erik Klemetti's blog, with links. For the previous burst, scroll down to September 30th.

  • October 5, 2011. The Icelandic volcano Katla is still having a lot of small earthquakes. No immediate threat, but it needs to be watched. Erik Klemetti's Eruptions blog

  • October 4, 2011. Seven Italian seismologists charged with manslaughter for not predicting a deadly earthquake. This opens the door for prosecuting weather forecasters, too, you'd think....

  • October 4, 2011. Alert level rised at Anak Krakatau. Erik Klemetti's Eruptions blog

  • October 4, 2011. Long-term effects of the continuing low-level ash eruptions from Puyehue volcano. The volcano is in Chile, but the affected region is downwind in Argentina. BBC News For previous stories, scroll down to July 26, 2011.

  • October 2, 2011. Update on the Hunza landslide. Well, there isn't one. The spillway has not changed for a long time, work seems to have stopped, and the money that was to provide a reliable boat service up and down the lake behind the landslide seems to have diasppeared too. Picture gallery from the Pamir Times. In fact, the only help the people of the valley are getting is coming from China: Pamir Times For previous story, scroll down to September 4, 2011.

  • September 30, 2011. Etna's new burst of activity. Erik Klemetti's Eruptions blog, with many links. For previous burst of activity, scroll down to August 12, 2011.

  • September 29, 2011. The unknown hazards of natural gas "fracking". From NPR

  • September 26, 2011. Lava is finally flowing again from the Pu'u O'o crater in Hawaii. It had been gently flowing inside the crater, but this is a new eruptive phase that began on September 21. The lava is flowing east, but is still inside the Park.

  • September 18, 2011. Earthquake near the India/Nepal border in the foothills of the Himalayas kills dozens of people and causes widespread damage. Terra Daily

  • September 14, 2011. The volcano Kizimen, in Kamchatka. It began its current eruption late last year, and in a series of relatively modest eruptions, has dramatically altered the landscape around it. NASA satellite imagery early this month shows before-and-after shots from space. Great teaching images!

  • September 13, 2011. The rift down the center of Iceland is getting wider. Thingvellir, arguably the iconic center of the Icelandic culture, lies right on the Mid-Atlantic Rift. But the rift has recently widened, messing up the tourist pathways at the site.

  • September 9, 2011. NASA produces a flashy new composite image of the lunar north pole. Wired Science

  • September 9, 2011. A 6.7 magnitude earthquake off the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Not many people live out there. No tsunami, I don't know why. Globe and Mail

  • September 6, 2011. Russia plays another card in the energy game with Western Europe. BBC News

  • September 4, 2011. The Hunza valley landslide: satellite photos don't lie. This image, taken on August 3, 2011, shows no signs that the lake has dropped at all. So all the Pakistani propaganda about progress on the spillway was bogus. The Pakistanis knew it, of course, the locals knew it, and anyone with access to satellite imagery knew it. So here's a re-cap, with lots of links. I don't apologize for the length of this item: it's a great topic for a term paper, whether you're doing geology or sociology or international relations, or are just interested in what happens when a government, through inefficiency, corruption, deliberate neglect, or ethnic/religious malice, can't or won't deliver basic services to its people. NASA Earth Observatory

  • September 1, 2011. Aerial photos of Hurricane Irene damage. Great tears in the Outer Banks.

  • August 24, 2011. Why the M5.8 earthquake in Virginia was felt over such a wide area. Wired Science

  • August 23, 2011. Photo gallery: space shots of National Parks. Wired Science

  • August 22, 2011. Gold hits an all-time high of $1917.90 an ounce. (Since I posted this, the price has dropped about $200). Watch it drop a lot! CNN

  • August 18, 2011. What Texas Governor Rick Perry thinks about climate change -- and other pronouncements by this candidate for the US Presidency. Terra Daily

  • August 12, 2011. The tenth paroxysm of the year at Etna.

  • August 9, 2011. In a spectacular example of "teleconnection", the Japanese tsunami last March smashed very large pieces off a portion of the Sulzberger ice shelf in the Ross Sea of Antarctica. The total of the pieces was 48 square miles (120 sq km) of icebergs, with the largest one 7 miles x 4 miles (10 km x 6). (They were half-fractured anyway -- see NASA image.) The paper is in press in the Journal of Glaciology, but is made free access on the Web because it was paid for by taxpayer money.

  • August 9, 2011. Three new "dwarf planets" in the Kuiper Belt. Wired Science

  • August 8, 2011. Gold prices hit yet another all-time high. Forbes

  • August 8, 2011. It's been a long wait, but there are new surface flows from Pu'u O'o on Hawaii. Lava began to flow near the east end of the Kamoamoa fissure that was active in March. Then the crater at Pu'u O'o began to collapse, taking a Webcam with it. The new flow is running downhill about 3 km within the National Park.

  • August 4, 2011. Aerial view of the famous shoreline change at Ocean City, Maryland, by the construction of jetties. NASA Earth Observatory

  • August 4, 2011. Surge on a glacier in Tajikistan. The Medvezhiy glacier has advanced more than half a mile in 8 weeks, blocking a side valley to pond up a lake 200 meters (650 feet) deep and 350 meters (1150 feet) wide. When the river eventually breaches the dam, there will likely be a huge flood down the Abdukagor River, like one that happened 40 years ago. To explore on your own, go to Google maps and begin to type in Ismoil Somoni Peak, Gorno-Badakhshan, Tajikistan. It will come up fast, and you can then click on it. Directly south of the peak is a large east-west valley, and you will find the Medvezhiy glacier flowing from the east along it, roughly at the edge of the cloud cover on the day the image was made (earlier this year before the glacier began its spectacular advance. The side river it has now dammed used to flow into the main glacial valley from the south. You can now follow the valley down and see what might be endangered when the ice dam breaks. You can bet that geologists in the Tajik capital are busy on the same project right now, probably using the same satellite images!