Geology in the News, 2004

  • December 30, 2004. The growing private market for drinking water. Christian Science Monitor. An important summary.

  • December 30, 2004. Attempts to solve the water problems of Central Asia. BBC News OnLine

  • December 30, 2004. The sad state of the Murray-Darling river system in Australia. Christian Science Monitor

  • December 28, 2004. Shrinking glaciers and snowpack in the Pacific Northwest. A two-part feature article from Tidepool. Required reading if you don't yet believe in global warming.

  • December 27, 2004., Major jökulhlaups out of the Himalayas. Press release. I'd like to know what historical evidence there is: they should have been recorded in Indian history.

  • December 24, 2004. Lonnie Thompson's new discoveries on the Quelccaya ice cap of Peru.

  • December 15, 2004. Wind erosion is bad enough in Tajikistan, but when it picks up dust from abandoned uranium mines.... Agence France-Presse story on TerraDaily site

  • December 14, 2004. Spirit has found evidence of water at Gusev crater. BBC News OnLine. It found the mineral goethite, which only forms in wet conditions.

  • December 12, 2004. Published doubts about a Permo-Triassic impact. A team looking for impact evidence in P-Tr boundary sediments in Europe found none. As you know, Asish Basu and Luann Becker and colleagues have found impact evidence in Antarctica, and have linked it to the Bedout structure off Australia, which they infer to be the impact scar. So what do we do with this new paper? I haven't read it yet, because my institution doesn't get Geology on-line. I'll make three comments now, and amend them if necessary after I've read the real paper. 1. The P-Tr evidence is four times as old as the K-T evidence, and Basu and colleagues have noted this carefully. There may be no K-T type evidence in the Austrian sequences: that doesn't mean there wasn't an impact. 2. More generally, it's a given in logic that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. 3. The Chronicle story implies there's very bad behavior going on.

  • December 10, 2004. Mysterious deep tremor on the San Andreas Fault. For stories on the M6 Parkfield earthquake, scroll down to September 29th.

  • December 9, 2004. With huge amounts of geothermal energy, Indonesia goes for oil and gas. Christian Science Monitor perspective

  • December 8, 2004. An early wet Mars. Summary of the latest set of publications. National Geographic News. The papers were in Science. So far, no answers for: how long ago was Mars wet? How long was it wet? What was that water like? (possibly very acid.) The whole tenor continues to be irrationally optimistic. But maybe that's OK. I've just finished a fine little book, Overconfidence and War, by Dominic Johnson (Harvard University Press). He argues that "positive illusions" are to some extent advantageous in the games people play against one another. In general, if you don't think you can win, you don't fight, or at any rate don't fight with full efficiency. So many times, optimists win because they are optimists. Johnson argues that this can be a problem when leaders become so overconfident that they get themselves into really bad situations. He cites General Custer, Napoleon and Hitler in their dictator years, and successive American Presidents in Vietnam. And you can guess who and what his final chapter discusses. Anyway, my point is that the Mars folks may yet discover evidence for life, though (as you probably have guessed by now), I doubt it. As someone has written, there is life on Mars: it consists of bacteria from JPL in Pasadena. And does Jeff Kargel SERIOUSLY think that we are going to ship salts back to Earth from Mars? What do you guess it would cost per pound?

  • November 29, 2004. The end of cheap oil. Perspective in National Geographic

  • November 22, 2004. Another attempt to restore sand bars along the Colorado by a large artificial flood. BBC News OnLine

  • November 22, 2004. New map of San Francisco Bay Area earthquakes. San Francisco Chronicle. The map is here

  • November 19, 2004. The price of gold reaches a 16-year high. There is NO geological reason for this. The reasons are first, uncertainty throughout western Asia about the future, and second, the fact that the US dollar is going down the tubes. It reached a historic low against the Euro yesterday. Why would any sane foreign investor buy dollar-valued US securities, or shares? Why is the dollar dropping? Because the American administration, and the individual American, both seem determined to borrow vast amounts of money and spend it on foreign goods and foreign adventures: crude oil (instead of conserving); Chinese-made electronics; or the ratholes of Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • November 19, 2004. Russia proposes to break up the oil giant Yukos. BBC News OnLine. Most of this is internal Russian politics. Putin does not like the thought of too much power in the hands of business magnates, especially crooks. Can you spell Enron?

  • November 18, 2004. What's happening to Tibet? Press release about a new paper in Geology.

  • November 15, 2004. Uranium mining begins a comeback. Planet Ark

  • November 9, 2004. The fun of studying Mount St. Helens. Christian Science Monitor

  • November 9, 2004. Canadian smelter that has polluted the Columbia for years: latest in the lawsuit. Seattle Post-Intelligencer

  • November 8, 2004. Water crisis in Australia. BBC News OnLine

  • November 7, 2004. Using tumbleweeds to suck up uranium. Press release. This is of interest because the researcher is a geologist. We have known for some time that tumbleweeds suck up uranium: the Hanford nuclear site in Washington has had to worry about trying to stop radioactive tumbleweeds rolling across the eastern two-thirds of Washington. This new research proposes to plant tumbleweeds deliberately on nuclear-contaminated sites. Of course, you will have to send people out to collect and dispose of the radioactive plants before they roll away (how? isn't that more of a problem than having the radioactivity in the ground?) Look, I didn't fund this research and I didn't make this up. I just post it for your mystification. I can read the novel now: mad scientist thinks of wonderful way to contaminate the United States with radioactivity... I claim any residual movie rights.

  • November 7, 2004. River erosion threatens Alaskan villages. Los Angeles Times story from several days ago, from the San Francisco Chronicle. The increased erosion is an indirect result of global warming, which is hitting certain critical areas in Alaska harder than others.

  • November 4, 2004. Eruption of Grimsvötn volcano, under Iceland's biggest icecap. BBC News OnLine, with links to great images and video.

  • November 3, 2004. China puts out a coal fire that had burned for more than 125 years. BBC News Online

  • November 2, 2004. Geological evidence for a supernova explosion "near" the Earth around 3 million years ago. The timing is not as clear as they would like, given the fact that they estimated it from growth lines in a manganese nodule. It's still important and intriguing in terms of geology and astronomy, though the link to evolution is tenuous at best.

  • November 1, 2004. There are more than 100 lakes under the Antarctic ice cap (and many smaller ones may still to be discovered). National Geographic News.

  • October 29, 2004. Japanese earthquake updates:

  • October 29, 2004. Tsunami danger from the Canaries is "overhyped". BBC News OnLine. For previous stories, scroll down to August 11th.

  • October 28, 2004. Oil drilling set for an Alaskan wildlife refuge. No, not ANWR (yet): this is the Yukon Flats national Wildlife refuge. Veterans of these pages will not be surprised to recognize the villainous hand of Senator Ted Stevens in this ploy. (Logging the Tongass, trying to drill ANWR, and, most magnificent, author of a bill that would define any salmon that ended up in the net of an Alaskan fisherman as "not endangered".) Mother Jones news

  • October 25, 2004. Gas on the range: the gas industry in Wyoming. San Francisco Chronicle

  • October 22, 2004. Oil at $55 a barrel. Planet Ark/Reuters

  • October 21, 2004. Water supply crisis in Rajasthan, northwest India. BBC News OnLine

  • October 20, 2004. 125 Years of Pacific Coast Oil (now ChevronTexaco). San Francisco Chronicle

  • October 20, 2004. An English village falling into the sea. BBC News OnLine

  • October 19, 2004. Beach erosion: another round of discussion over who pays, and for what? Christian Science Monitor

  • October 15, 2004. Evidence of comet impact in southern Germany around 200 BC. SpaceDaily site

  • October 15, 2004. Fifteen years after Loma Prieta, San Francisco is still vulnerable. National Geographic News

  • October 15, 2004. The Hopi Indians, the Peabody Coal mining company, and the N aquifer. On Earth , Fall 2004.

  • October 13, 2004. Mt St. Helens

  • October 4, 2004. "Amazing success rate" of earthquake forecast in California. Not so fast: it depends on your expectation of "amazing" success. What they did was to predict that earthquakes would occur where earthquakes already have occurred. They defined "hotspots" for California quakes based on historical activity, and lo and behold! 15 of the next 16 M5 quakes were in or near those hot spots. What else would you expect? What would be a "bad" result? Note that there was no forecast of timing, which is absolutely critical to any real-world forecasting method. I shall probably get into trouble because some of this research was done at UC Davis. But you have to call it as you see it. Here: make up your own mind:

  • October 1, 2004. Breathing coal smoke causes mutations. Press release

  • September 29, 2004. A M6 earthquake on the San Andreas Fault at Parkfield.

  • September 29, 2004. Close passage of asteroid Toutatis to Earth. National Geographic News

  • September 28, 2004. The city of Kiruna, in Sweden, is sinking into the famous iron mine there. BBC News OnLine. The Swedes are typically stoic about it.

  • September 27, 2004. What causes magnetic reversals? National Geographic News

  • September 26, 2004. Montserrat's volcano is becoming less active: this has its problems too. BBC News OnLine

  • September 24, 2004. Antarctic ice is melting faster.

  • September 22, 2004. Did young Mars have an acid ocean? National Geographic News

  • August 30, 2004. The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 (an update). National Geographic News

  • August 19, 2004. Oil prices reach another high (and they've gone up again since I posted this). BBC News OnLine. Some of this is to do with Vladimir Putin's efforts to get back government control over the assets of the Yukos oil firm. Putin doesn't care about world oil prices in the short term it will take him to bring Yukos down: Russia exports a huge amount, and if the price goes up that's more hard cash coming in for less oil going out. And, of course, the US is so obsessed by Iraq and the election that it's not paying attention to things that matter, especially as the big energy firms that have so much clout in the White Hosue benefit from high oil prices. Previous story: Crude oil prices reach record high. BBC News OnLine, August 13, 2004. This is in dollar terms. First, the dollar is dropping in value against other world currencies, and second, prices were higher in terms of real buying power in the first oil crisis of 1979-1980.

  • August 19, 2004. Water supply problems in India. BBC News OnLine

  • August 19, 2004. Alleged discovery of large meteorite craters under the Antarctic ice cap. BBC News OnLine. Warning: this is just a talk at a conference, not a published piece of science. I cannot tell how these folks got an accurate date on the impact, therefore I don't know how significant this is.

  • August 18, 2004. Wave erosion is increasing rather dramatically on Britain's west coast. BBC News OnLine

  • August 16, 2004. Retrospective on Hurricane Charley. Christian Science Monitor.

  • August 13, 2004. Destructive earthquake in northwest China.

  • August 13, 2004. A landslide-blocked lake in the Himalayas is threatening a major flood in the plains of India. Any flood will come down the Sutlej into the densely populated plain of the Punjab (in India, for those who haven't seen Bend It Like Beckham). BBC News OnLine.

  • August 12, 2004. Gusev crater on Mars did NOT ever contain a large lake, as the NASA teams had hoped. Press release. A set of papers in Science will eventually be generally available on the Web.

  • August 11, 2004. A megatsunami from the Canary Islands: the scare story comes round again.

  • August 6, 2004. Intrusion of magma deep under the Lake Tahoe basin. Tiny but unusual shifts in "Slide Mountain", and swarms of tiny earthquakes close to the north end of the lake, lead to this proposal by geologists at the University of Nevada, Reno. My colleagues here at Davis think it's reasonable, though they haven't had time yet to study the paper. The deep magma is probably creeping along a crack to form or enlarge a dike. No danger at all of an eruption, or even of large quakes. But a confirmation that Westerners live on and near an active plate margin.

  • August 5, 2004. Suggestion that Mars has active volcanism now. BBC News OnLine. This isn't exactly the most convincing news story...

  • August 3, 2004. Melt a glacier, start an earthquake? Not really, but it's at least a reasonable suggestion to test. Press release

  • August 2, 2004. Evidence that prehistoric droughts in North America were much more extensive than the 1930's "Dust Bowl" drought. Press release

  • July 29, 2004. China's Yellow River is drying up. BBC News OnLine

  • July 28, 2004. The Greenland icecap is melting far faster than we had feared. BBC News OnLine

  • July 13, 2004. More data on the topography of Lake Vostok (under the Antarctic ice cap). NSF press release

  • July 7, 2004. Canadian tar sands: getting into major production. Nice summary on the Wired site. Yes, I know he wrote it last winter, but it is in the July edition of Wired.

  • June 29, 2004. Latest on the Aral Sea (no good news). BBC News OnLine. Previous stories:

  • June 18, 2004. Comet Wild2 is tougher than expected: it's not just a pile of rubble. JPL press release

  • June 15, 2004. The Bam earthquake was on a blind thrust (and it was strike-slip as well!). BBC News OnLine. By the way, the death toll was 26,671, not the 40,000 at first feared. It's still far too many.

  • June 15, 2004. The plight of the Hoh Indian reservation. Seattle Post-Intelligencer This one's in the newspaper because an already disadvantaged community is threatened with terminal disruption. Now ask yourself about all the other environmental destruction all round the Olympic Peninsula that doesn't get the same level of publicity. And ask yourself who is benefiting from the damage. And ask yourself who will pay for any mitigation.

  • June 15, 2004. Small earthquakes north of Lake Tahoe. San Francisco Chronicle

  • June 10, 2004. Eruptions in Indonesia. BBC News OnLine

  • June 10, 2004. To think that we elected these bozos! (Actually, we didn't, did we?) Less than two months ago, the Bush administration forecast that the price of oil would stay below $27 a barrel until 2025. Well, it's over $40 as I write this. See story from April 15, 2004.

  • June 6, 2004. Another candidate site for Atlantis. BBC News Online. No way. You have to remember three things. First, the Atlantis story was gathered from the Egyptians, who were and are at the other end of the Mediterranean. Second, if you believe Mott Greene, Hesiod also wrote about Atlantis, and his description matches a giant volcanic eruptiion. Third, there's no hint of a catastrophic end to the new site. Altogether, there's little doubt in my mind that the best hypothesis for Atlantis is Thera/Santorini, and unless and until a new hypothesis is clearly better, it's a non-starter. That's the rule.

  • June 4, 2004. Synthesis of geology, life, and climate on the early Earth. Press release. The paper is in Geology, so it's not available freely on the Web.

  • June 4, 2004. Boom for oil drilling from Texas to the mountain states. Christian Science Monitor

  • June 4, 2004. Levee break in central California endangers the State's fragile water-supply system. San Francisco Chronicle. Why is this relevant to geology? Ask yourself what happens if there's a big earthquake on the Hayward Fault, less than 30 miles from many many levees in the Delta. Watch also for repercussions throughout Southern California. This certainly smashes any hope for much water in the Owens River, for example.

  • June 3, 2004. The Bush administration allegedly blocks a NOAA website that would explain global warming in clear and simple terms. Grist magazine OK, this is a muck-raking Webzine. The problem is that one can so easily believe that the White House WOULD behave just like that.

  • June 2, 2004. Jordanian appeal to save the Dead Sea. BBC News OnLine. Previous stories:

  • June 1, 2004. Mud volcanoes.

  • May 29, 2004. Quake in Iran, not far from Tehran. BBC News OnLine. Previous story: The Iranians wonder whether to move their capital away from Tehran New York Times, January 2004. (I know, they removed everything but the summary, the greedy swine.) Off the top of my head, I can't think of any previous example of a country moving its capital because of an earthquake hazard. Of course, this move may not happen; and it certainly won't happen quickly.

  • May 24, 2004. Earliest evidence of deliberate mining for flints. There's no Web site yet. The paper is in PNAS, Verri, G., et al. 2004. Flint mining in prehistory recorded by in situ-produced cosmogenic 10Be. PNAS 101: 7880-7884. It's available now for subscribers at www.pnas.org, but PNAS makes its papers freely available quickly.

  • May 24, 2004. The Laki eruption of 1783 may have caused many more deaths in Western Europe than has been realized. BBC News OnLine

  • May 17, 2004. Great image of the eruption of Shiveluch, in Kamchatka. Press release

  • May 12, 2004. The USGS reacts to the idiotic TV movie "10.5". USGS site. Reminder that the USGS offers a weekly update on earthquake news.

  • May 10, 2004. An updated version of the geologic time scale. Web site

  • May 10, 2004. Ancient Mars tectonics. BBC News OnLine report describing new images from a horst-and-graben system on the edge of the Tharsis bulge. This is a VERY ancient structure, and does not point to a long-lived tectonic history for Mars. The BBC News OnLine site has an ongoing collection of Mars-related stories in this archive

  • May 2, 2004. Ugly forecast of major damage in the next San Francisco earthquake. San Francisco Chronicle. See also the Chronicle's earthquake page.

  • April 27, 2004. Retreat of the San Rafael glacier in Patagonia. BBC News OnLine

  • April 20, 2004. More on the meteorite swarm that hit Chicago in March last year. Press release. Previous story: The meteorite that splattered Chicago on March 26th 2003: quick review in National Geographic News

  • April 12, 2004. New earthquake map for the central US. This region, along with the Northwest, are underrated in public estimation as potential earthquake areas.

  • April 9, 2004. Calculate your own asteroid impact. Press release. This is a nice idea, though the page is rather geeky. You can choose where the asteroid will hit, how big it is, what it's made of, and how fast it's going. Then the program will tell you about its effects.

  • April 8, 2004. The Greenland ice sheet is in worse shape than we thought. National Geographic site. The paper is in Nature, so it's not generally available on the Net. This is bad news, not just for the Greenland ice sheet, but for all of us. The melting water may affect the climate of the whole North Atlantic region, and the sea level may rise faster than we had projected.

  • April 1, 2004. It's likely that flood basalts and major impacts could be associated by chance (say these authors). BBC News OnLine. I think this is a nutty paper: for example, it depends critically on the "window" you allow for the length of the basalt eruptions. GIGO.

  • April 1, 2004. If you dump serpentine down a subduction zone, it may eventually generate earthquakes. NSF press release

  • March 26, 2004. The Tiffany company protests plans for a new mine in Montana. Seattle Post-Intelligencer

  • March 24, 2004. The Mars lander Opportunity is sitting on an old shoreline on Mars. NASA press release. Continuing coverage at: NASA Mars Rovers main page

  • March 22, 2004. A jokulhlaup as an ice dam fails in southern Argentina. Press release. We have seen this kind of event at Lake Russell in Alaska.

  • March 19, 2004. "Vast fields" of water ice at the South Pole of Mars. Press release from the European Space Agency

  • March 17, 2004. Another little story about the hazards of living near Vesuvius. BBC News Previous stories from 2003:

  • March 6, 2004. Short summary of new tsunami research. Science News

  • March 3, 2004. Mars lander sends back convincing evidence of the presence of water (long ago!). This evidence is convincing by any standards. It was a long time ago, and we have no idea how long the wet conditions lasted, however.

  • March 4, 2004. What is "pure" water? The Brits take on Coca-Cola and Dasani "water". CNN news. You have to love this one. Coca-Cola takes London tap water, "purifies" it, then adds stuff, then has the gall to label its product Dasani as "pure water."

  • February 9, 2004. The Mars landing. Continuing coverage:

  • January 29, 2004. A dam in Belize will go ahead. BBC News OnLine. There were two subplots. One was the environmental aspect, and it seems that this was the main point of argument. However, the second was much more serious: had the dam proponents faked the geological survey of the dam site? Did the construction company delete from the map a fault that had apparently runs under the dam site? Or was the fault never there? Is the dam site granite or is it silt? If the geology was faked, we will hear more when the dam fails. Frankly, this story has an ugly smell about it. How much would it cost to send a couple of reputable geologists to the site and answer the very simple questions that still seem to be floating around? Previous story, also on BBC News OnLine.

  • January 26, 2004. Earthquakes killed a lot of people last year. Press release. Well, almost all of them were in Bam.

  • January 20, 2004. Where the San Andreas runs out to sea near San Francisco. California Wild, Winter 2004

    All links checked January 29, 2007

    For news items archived from 2003, see Geology News from 2003.

    For news items archived from 2002, see Geology News from 2002.

    For news items archived from 2001, see Geology News from 2001.

    For news items archived from 2000, see Geology News from 2000.

    For news items archived from 1999, see Geology News from 1999.

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