Geology in the News 2005

This is a selection of stories, subject to the following rules. First, I don't guarantee close daily coverage of everything that happens (because I have things to do apart from maintaining this Web page). Second, the site has to be generally accessible. (Many journals make their pages accessible only to people who have paid a subscription to the written version.) Third, I choose newspapers and news sites that tend to keep their pages accessible for more than two weeks over those that do not. Fourth, I keep older articles archived for varying lengths of time, depending how important I think they are (or interesting, at least); whether they have been updated or made redundant; and whether the site has dropped them. For example, I've had to give up on the New York Times. It is a fine paper, but its new policy is to take off its stories within DAYS and then charge for access to them. If you want to keep an article, DOWNLOAD IT NOW!

Similar pages on the UC Davis Geology Department web site are

Geology in the News 2005

  • December 30, 2005. The (real) cost of gold. A series of articles in the New York Times. This is the latest one, about Nevada. It's a really good article, but DOWNLOAD IT NOW before they take it off public access (with free registration). Previous articles in this series that are still available:

  • December 28, 2005. Geologist out of a job? You could work in an Afghan coal mine... BBC News OnLine

  • December 27, 2005. Eruption of Fuego, in Guatemala. ABC News

  • December 25, 2005. Popocatepetl has small ash eruption. Reuters

  • December 24, 2005. Life in the Siberian gas fields. BBC News OnLine

  • December 23, 2005. Mount Augustine has several steam plumes and may be building up for an eruption. ABC News. Here is a current information page from the Alaska Volcano Observatory. And here is the URL for the Webcam. Remember that the Webcam is 75 miles from the volcano, that Alaska is in more or less continuous darkness at this time of year, with only a few hours of twilight, and that this is a very cloudy area at any time.

  • December 23, 2005. Still refugees, a year after the eruption of Manam in Papua New Guinea. Radio New Zealand. For the 2004 eruption, see this page on the Volcano Live site

  • December 23, 2005. New insight into the Sumatra earthquake and tsunami. National Geographic News

  • December 22, 2005. Barrick Gold is going to buy Placer Dome to create the world's largest gold mining company.

  • December 22, 2005. "Lake beds" on Mars may be meteorite craters. Press release The paper is in Nature so won't be freely available on the Web.

  • December 21, 2005. Tsunami threat to the Oregon/Washington coast. This comes from new and interesting information about the Sumatra tsunami (see item added December 23, 2005). Extrapolated to our northwest coast, the implications are major. But the extrapolation may not be properly done... National Geographic News.

  • December 15, 2005. Update on the bulge under the Sisters area of Oregon.

  • December 15, 2005. A visit to Ol Doinyo Lengai, a volcano on the African Rift. Supersport magazine, from South Africa

  • December 12, 2005. Huge new hydrothermal "plume" found on the Indian Ocean floor. National Geographic News. National Geographic loves using the prefix "mega"!

  • December 10, 2005. Continuing disintegration of the Columbia Glacier in Alaska. Press release

  • December 10, 2005. Major eruption "unlikely" in Vanuatu. Manaro, on the island of Ambae, is having an ash eruption, and an evacuation is being ordered because it may turn really nasty. Meanwhile, the locals are taking their own pathway to appeasing the volcano. Previous stories:

  • December 9, 2005. Some results from drilling the San Andreas Fault. BBC News OnLine. Previous stories:

  • December 9, 2005. Wasting gas in Nigeria. New York Times. Warning: this won't last long before you have to pay for it. If you want it, download it now! It is re-posted, rightly or wrongly, on this site.

  • December 8, 2005. A dramatic rifting event in the Afar triangle. BBC News OnLine

  • December 8, 2005. The world's fastest glacier. BBC News OnLine. This is not just a Guiness Book of World Records story: it happens to be dumping a lot of Greenland ice into the North Atlantic: we don't know how much this might affect the Gulf Stream.

  • December 8, 2005. Subsidence in Mexico City: a simple overview. BBC News OnLine

  • December 8, 2005. The Atacama Desert has been hyper-arid for at least 20 million years. BBC News OnLine

  • December 8, 2005. Yet another Chinese coal mine disaster. BBC News OnLine. Previous horror stories:

  • December 7, 2005. Detailed imagery of the San Andreas Fault. Live Science

  • December 7, 2005. Tectonic strain building up offshore from Southern Sumatra. BBC News OnLine. The map says it all.

  • December 5, 2005. The Permian extinction was the result of the Siberian Traps eruption. BBC News OnLine. The paper is in Geology, so it won't be freely available on the Web.

  • December 3, 2005. Another essay on San Francisco's vulnerability to earthquakes. BBC News OnLine

  • November 29, 2005. Collapse of a lava bench on the coast of Hawaii unveils a magma fall into the ocean. . Great images too! Other sites:

  • November 29, 2005. A great story about world copper trading. Apparently a Chinese official has lost $100 m speculating on the copper market. This may drive the price of gold to $500 an ounce.

  • November 28, 2005. Earth had VERY early continental crust. Apart from other important geochemical considerations, this means that Earth had rather mild surface conditions very early. The abstract is available: the paper will eventually be published in Science.

  • November 28, 2005. Small ash eruption in the Comoros. Planet Ark

  • November 25, 2005. Galeras has a small ash eruption. BBC News OnLine. Previous stories:

  • November 24, 2005. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is higher now than it has been for at least 650,000 years. The paper is in Science. Live Science

  • November 23, 2005. Eruption adds to the British Empire. 50 acres of new lava has increased the size of Montagu Island, in the South Atlantic. :Live Science

  • November 17, 2005. The "Blue Stream" pipeline is opened. It will take natural gas from Russia to Turkey under the Black Sea. A point to Russia in the Great Game being played out on the fringes of the old Soviet Union. BBC News OnLine

  • November 13, 2005. Twentieth anniversary of the Nevado del Ruiz disaster in Colombia. BBC News OnLine

  • November 7, 2005. The death toll from the Kashmir quake is now over 87,000. AP story in San Francisco Chronicle. Quake overview from the BBC. For other stories, see October 21, 2005.

  • October 27, 2005. Popping rocks from the sea-floor: from an undersea volcano. Discovery News. This is an update of this earlier press release. They are volcanic rocks loaded with pressurized volcanic gases. Handle with care.

  • October 25, 2005. Eruption in the Galapagos Islands, on Isabela. CNN

  • October 24, 2005. The root cause of the La Conchita landslides. It was a geological survey that found the problem. And that survey said (essentially) that this was no place to build anything. Wouldn't it be sensible to require a geological survey anywhere that people want to build in California? But you know how people work: do you think this is going to make much difference to the politics ansd economics of development in Southern California?

  • October 22, 2005. Southern California's cliffs and bluffs contribute as much sand to the beaches as streams do. Press release

  • October 21, 2005. The Kashmir earthquake killed over 50,000 people. Too many times, I find myself writing that the earthquake was not that large, though the death toll was enormous. It's clear from the images that it wasn't just "traditional" rock-and-rubble homes that collapsed, but also many modern concrete buildings that simply should not have fallen down. There must have been poor design or shoddy construction. This is a region where earthquakes are frequent, though not many are this large. Even so, the damage is far too great, so people were killed in horrifying numbers.

  • October 20, 2005. New exhibit about Pompeii at the Field Museum, Chicago. Information with images

  • October 19, 2005. Enthusiastic story about the potential for a catastrophic mudflow from Mount Rainier in Washington. Seattle Weekly

  • October 11, 2005. New estimates of earthquake risk for the northern San Andreas Fault. I ought to be circumspect in any comments, because this is a team from my own Department. Nevertheless, it's true that the predictions aren't very different from existing estimates. It's stretching it a bit to say that the predictions are "testable", because the testing time will be decades. And note the last two paragraphs of the Chronicle story.

  • October 8, 2005. Massive landslide buries villages in Guatemala. CNN OnLine. The landslide was triggered by heavy rains from Hurricane Stan. Follow-up story from ABC, October 10, 2005.

  • October 5, 2005. Barrick Gold and a huge gold deposit under glaciers at the top of the Andes. San Francisco Chronicle

  • October 2, 2005. Ilamatepec volcano in El Salvador erupts, after 100 years of dormancy. Ash and lahars caused serious local damage.

  • October 2, 2005. Huge landslide/collapse on Mount Steller, Alaska.

  • September 28, 2005. Lake Balkhash is the latest Central Asian lake to be threatened. By overuse of its tributary rivers, just like the Aral Sea. BBC News OnLine

  • September 27, 2005. Lake Nyos and Lake Monoun are still dangerous. BBC News OnLine. Previous stories:

  • September 22, 2005. Oil spills from oil platforms wrecked by Katrina. Seattle Times. The article says that they are designed to withstand only a Category 2 or 3 hurricane!

  • September 22, 2005. Energy crisis? Go back to coal?

  • September 21, 2005. The surface of Mars shows recent changes. Note that none of them involve liquid water.

  • September 19, 2005. Katrina essentially destroyed the Chandeleur Islands. National Geographic News, with images.

  • September 18, 2005. Are we prepared (for a Cascadia subduction earthquake in Portland, Oregon)? asks the Oregonian

  • September 18, 2005. Are we prepared (for a Northern California earthquake)? asks the San Francisco Chronicle in two articles

  • September 17, 2005. Continuing coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Collection of National Geographic News articles

  • September 17, 2005. What caused the "Late Heavy Bombardment" of the inner planets around 3.9-4.0 billion years ago?. The paper is in Science.

  • September 16, 2005. New earthquake handbook for San Francisco and the California Bay Area. United States Geological Survey

  • September 15, 2005. Insight on the great Chilean earthquake of 1960. National Geographic News. The paper is in Nature, so it won't be freely available on the Web.

  • September 13, 2005. A volcanic jokulhlaup may have affected salmon in an Alaska river. Live Science

  • September 13, 2005. Slow earthquake under way in Cascadia. Live Science

  • September 2, 2005. New Orleans levees were not designed for a Category 4 hurricane. National Geographic News

  • September 2, 2005. Was there a failure of commitment to a potential disaster in New Orleans? Opinion column, New York Times. This is a political piece, but the facts are there for you to accept or reject. If you want it, download it now before they start asking money for it.

  • September 1, 2005. Water covers New Orleans.

  • August 31, 2005. The New Orleans levee break can be seen from space.

  • August 30, 2005. Levee break may be serious for New Orleans. Water is flowing into the city from Lake Pontchartrain, but can't be pumped out because the power is out: at least, that's what I read in these preliminary stories. If they are anything like true, then it is going to be weeks of pumping and cleaning up contaminated sludge, over a huge proportion of the city. Not a pleasant thought, and not as easily funded as the more immediate after-crisis interventions.

  • August 30, 2005. Oil reaches a new record high: $70.85 a barrel. Reuters on CNN

  • August 29, 2005. New Orleans hammered by Hurricane Katrina (Category 4) (but not catastrophically). This was scary because New Orleans is bowl-shaped (because of ground subsidence), and parts of the city are over 20 feet below the rim. Dramatic rainfall alone would flood the city. If many levees had broken too, under the hurricane's storm surge and storm waves on top of that, there might have been a terrible disaster.

  • August 29, 2005. Oil hits $70 a barrel as Katrina stops oil production and closes oil-importing facilities.

  • August 28, 2005. Devastating the San Pedro River in Arizona. Los Angeles Times story in the San Francisco Chronicle. Over-pumping the aquifers, as is happenign throughout the West.

  • August 27, 2005. Summary of recent analysis of the earthquake and tsunami of last December. Science News

  • August 27, 2005. Twelve acres of lava collapses into the sea on the Hawaiian coast: the continuing eruption will rebuild it. Kilauea update page. For a while, you can scroll back to August 27th; at some point it will revert to "History".

  • August 25, 2005. The Earth's core spins faster than the rest. National Geographic News. We knew that already; but the new paper adds more evidence.

  • August 21, 2005. Perils of asbestos mining, this time in Minnesota. In all previous stories I've seen like this one, the company knew of the problem and ignored it, or under-reported it, then denied it. This is no exception. Minneapolis Star-Tribune. This is a follow-up to a story the day before: Minneapolis Star-Tribune, August 20, 2005. See also the awful case of Libby, Montana, "a town left to die", see this gem of investigative reporting by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. A smaller situation is playing out near Sacramento, California, this time where developers are opening up asbestos-laced soil for new housing and schools: see this story in the Sacramento Bee, May 2005.

  • August 21, 2005. Earthquakes under Galeras: is it going to erupt? AP story from CNN

  • August 18, 2005. ASARCO declares bankruptcy to avoid cleaning up its pollution. It's a simple matter: the company out-thought and outmaneuvered the EPA and the Bush administration (or was allowed to). Seattle Post-Intelligencer writing about arsenic and lead contamination.

  • August 16, 2005. Powerful earthquake and small tsunami in Japan.

  • August 16, 2005. The Deccan Traps were erupting when the asteroid hit at the K-T boundary.

  • August 15, 2005. North Dakota began draining Devil's Lake into Canada.

  • August 12, 2005. Oxygenating the atmosphere: a new model. Press release, University of Washington. It's an easy read, and a simple pleasing model. The question is whether it's right or not. It depends whether the assumptions are reasonable, and I have no way of judging that.

  • August 12, 2005. California goes head-to-head with the Bush administration over offshore California oil drilling. San Francisco Chronicle

  • August 11, 2005. De Beers, diamonds, and Chinese brides... The Guardian

  • August 11, 2005. Exploring the relatively unknown South Pacific ocean floor. NOAA. Check out underwater Giggenbach Volcano

  • August 11, 2005. MacDonald Island, in the Southern Ocean, is erupting. It was tiny to begin with, so a small eruption has doubled its size. The Australian

  • August 8, 2005. Hints of danger from the New Madrid earthquake area. USA Today. However, this is less than well-documented research, and this piece by itself shouldn't make anyone worry. I have to say that it's a pity that the USGS Fact Sheet on the New Madrid zone has not been updated for 10 years: there has been a lot of research in that time, including GPS measurements of crustal movement. But then the administration has been systematically starving the USGS of funds for years.

  • August 5, 2005. Chris Newhall, Volcano Guy. Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Not only an all-around ace human being, but an alumnus of the University of California, Davis. Maybe those two facts are linked :)

  • August 5, 2005. Short review of medical geology. Science.

  • August 4, 2005. Mountain biking Mount St. Helens. Seattle Times

  • August 4, 2005. No methane or ethane ocean on Titan. There goes that line of argument for potential biology there. BBC News OnLine

  • August 3, 2005. Las Vegas continues its push to tap into distant aquifers. Reuters

  • August 1, 2005. Rabaul in Papua New Guinea, and the effects of continuous ash eruptions from Tavurvur. Feature article in The National newspaper of PNG. The same story is playing out in the West Indian island of Montserrat: see this feature from the Chicago Tribune on 24th July.

  • August 1, 2005. A legacy of uranium mining in Texas. ENN News

  • August 1, 2005. Object larger than Pluto found far out in the Solar System. It's a stretch to call it (and Pluto) planets, but it's still a fine discovery. I can think of candidates I'd like to send on a mission to study it :)

  • July 31, 2005. Small ash eruption at Popocatepetl. Voice of America

  • July 29, 2005. Patch of ice in a crater on Mars. BBC News OnLine. Great picture, no new science. After all, we have known for a long time that Mars has polar ice caps. And as for life on Mars, just because of ice, let's look at the Moon, where there is ice in the bottom of polar craters. No-one thinks that indicates life on the Moon.

  • July 29, 2005. The water supply problem faced by Las Vegas (and by the farmers in Central Nevada whose water may soon be legally taken by Las Vegas). BBC News OnLine

  • July 27, 2005. Deadly fire on an Indian offshore oil rig. BBC News OnLine

  • July 26, 2005. Building offshore oil rigs that will survive hurricanes. Christian Science Monitor

  • July 24, 2005. M7 quake near the Nicobar islands. This is close enough to the great Sumatra quake of last year to get people thinking about tsunami. Otherwise it wouldn't get much attention. BBC News OnLine

  • July 23, 2005. M6 earthquake under Tokyo. Reuters. See story from July 14th below.

  • July 22, 2005. The submerged area Spartel, in the Straits of Gibraltar: is it Atlantis? This is not the usual kooky stuff. It's from a paper in Geology, which is never available on the Web, but is a bona fide international journal. If it is Atlantis, it was destroyed by earthquake and tsunami, with no volcanism. It's also a LONG way from other Bronze Age civilizations. My money is still on Thera (Santorini): the geography, the story from Solon, the buried city at Akrotiri, and the direct Bronze Age dating all point there, IMHO. And, by the way, the date suggested for a Spartel earthquake in this news story does not fit by about 9000 years!

  • July 21, 2005. Mars has been cold for 4 billion years. BBC News OnLine

  • July 18, 2005. Beautiful silverware set excavated at Pompeii. BBC News online. More Pompeii links from the BBC

  • July 14, 2005. Bad news about faults directly under Tokyo. The paper is in Science, so it will be freely available on the Web in a few months.

  • July 14, 2005. The Vredefort Dome is named as a new World Heritage Site. BBC News OnLine

  • July 14, 2005. More details on the Sumatra earthquake. BBC News OnLine. The paper is in Nature, so it will not be freely available on the Web.

  • July 14, 2005. China and Japan dispute offshore drilling rights. BBC News Online

  • July 13, 2005. Indian legends help discover ancient landslides in Seattle.

  • July 7, 2005. Asbestos in the Sacramento area. ENN news. This is a quick summary of a story that has been playing out in the area for several years. There has been public, private, and institutional denial of the problem, because this is a fast-developing area with megabucks on the line.

  • July 7, 2005. Trying to save the Dead Sea. ENN news

  • July 6, 2005. Consumers don't seem concerned by the price of gas. Christian Science Monitor

  • July 6, 2005. Canadian oil sands. Washington Post story in the Seattle Times

  • July 4, 2005. Underwater eruption near Iwo Jima.

  • July 1, 2005. There won't be an Ice Age Floods National Geological Trail. Too expensive, says the National park Service, which has been starved of funds under this administration. The cost would be about that of one Chinook helicopter. Seattle Times

  • June 27, 2005. Oil reaches $60 a barrel. Get used to the idea... BBC News OnLine

  • June 25, 2005. We get closer to tapping methane hydrate as a fuel. Science News

  • June 18, 2005. Succession of earthquakes on the West Coast. There is no significance to this: it's coincidence.

  • June 16, 2005. Kerry Sieh looks at tsunami damage on the ground in Sumatra. I believe these are free access.

  • June 15, 2005. Earthquake and tsunami warning off Northern California coast.

  • June 14, 2005. Powerful earthquake in northern Chile.

  • June 13, 2005. Rocky planet found orbiting another star. This is NOT an "earth-like" planet, as the newspapers have been saying. National Geographic News

  • June 8, 2005. Calculations suggest that the Sumatra region is still prime for another large earthquake. National Geographic News

  • June 8, 2005. Explosive eruptions at Colima. No casualties, but it's the biggest activity in 20 years and Colima is potentially a very dangerous volcano.

  • June 7, 2005. Identifying a piece of the ULVZ, the ultra-low velocity zone that sits on the core-mantle boundary. Press release. The paper was in Nature last week, so won't be freely available on the Web.

  • June 4, 2005. The growth of the Yellow River delta (images). BBC News OnLine

  • June 1, 2005. Newmont and the world's biggest gold mine: trouble in Peru. BBC News OnLine. Previous story from 2002: BBC News OnLine

  • June 1, 2005. Expensive landslide in Southern California.

  • May 31, 2005. Fertilizer from the stars. (!!??) Nature news. This is utter nonsense. It could be given to freshman college science students for an exercise in critical thinking. And these people keep getting their stuff published. Who reviews this stuff? Maybe Philip Ball is gently telling us with his title that he doesn't believe it either. The same group gave us this two years ago (with my comment at the time): Did a gamma ray burst cause the end-Ordovician extinction?Nature news service, September 22, 2003. This is a bunch of astronomers with an idea but no data, looking for something to explain. The answer is NO. Why use some untestable idea from outer space when there are perfectly reasonable mechanisms here on Earth?

  • May 27, 2005. The Bush administration moves toward more offshore drilling on the East and West coasts. San Francisco Chronicle

  • May 25, 2005. The Baku-to-Ceyhan pipeline is about to open. Winners: Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, the United States. Losers: Russia, Iran.

  • May 25, 2005. The Russians will drill closer to Lake Vostok. BBC News OnLine

  • May 22, 2005. The main Antarctic ice sheet is thickening. BBC News OnLine. The paper is in Science, so will be on the Web soon. This does not alter the fact that the rim of Antarctica is losing ice, or the fact that the world's ice is melting faster than it is forming.

  • May 20, 2005. Some Navajo protest more coal mining (and burning) on their land. Indian Country. I like the concept of a Navajo rap artist, too.

  • May 20, 2005. The scientific reports on the Sumatra tsunami are out. San Francisco Chronicle. The papers are in Science, so are by now freely available on the Web.

  • May 19, 2005. Severe compression in the northern Los Angeles Basin is not good news in terms of future earthquakes. Press release with map. The paper is in JGR.

  • May 18, 2005. Twenty-five years since Mount St. Helens exploded. San Francisco Chronicle

  • May 18, 2005. Daily earthquake forecast for California. National Geographic News. This is scientific nonsense, of course, but good PR. If you really want to check it out, HERE IT IS!

  • May 16, 2005. Very large diamonds made in the laboratory. Press release. I don't know whether De Beers is scared or not.

  • May 10, 2005. Ranching versus drilling for gas in Wyoming. Christian Science Monitor. This is the third in an occasional series. Previous stories:

  • April 28, 2005. A tsunami on Lake Tahoe? San Francisco Chronicle

  • April 26, 2005. Earthquake-proofing the Utah State Capitol building. BBC News OnLine

  • April 21, 2005. Antarctic glaciers are retreating.

  • April 19, 2005. The ancient equator of Mars. Press release from AGU. The paper is in JGR. A (very big) asteroid hit a very early Mars and blasted five big craters in it. These are still there as the craters Argyre, Hellas, Isidis, Thaumasia, ands Utopia. Hellas is enormous and deep even today. Jafar Arkani-Hamed spotted that these five are all on a great circle, so he suggests that this was the Martian equator at the time. There is a chain of assumptions here, but they are not unreasonable.

  • April 19, 2005. Mount Spurr in Alaska may be working slowly toward an eruption. San Francisco Chronicle

  • April 18, 2005. Al Jazeera and Toba. Al Jazeera site. This is the most scientifically illiterate piece I've seen in a while, and it reinforces all my doubts about Al Jazeera. This scare story was probably triggered by the eruption at Talang (NOT Toba), see below for April 12th.

  • April 17, 2005. Eruption in the Comoros. ABC News. This is a small bankrupt Muslim country that consists of a few barren islands in the southern Indian ocean. It's on the end of the hot spot line that started with the K-T eruptions in the Deccan Traps.

  • April 14, 2005. Corals reveal choppy changes in sea level. Nature news service. The paper is in Science, so will be freely available on the Web later this year. There's a lucid commentary in Science this week, too, which talks a lot about pints of beer.

  • April 12, 2005. Eruption at Mount Talang, on Sumatra. ABC News. Later analysis will tell whether this is related to the recent huge earthquakes on the same subduction zone that drives this volcanic arc. This is not a huge or unprecedented eruption, and this volcano is an active one.

  • April 12, 2005. What's going on in the Russian oil industry? Christian Science Monitor

  • April 8, 2005. Don't be fooled by "Supervolcano" on TV this weekend. AP story in Seattle Post-Intelligencer

  • April 8, 2005. Mars, the Dust Planet. No Web site yet. This is a news report from Richard Kerr in Science (so it will soon be on the Web here). Kerr, R. A. 2005. Rovers, dust, and a not-so-wet Mars. Science 308, 192-193. This is from a meeting in March. Note how much you've seen about it in the papers. The firm conclusion is that Mars has been dry and dusty for billions of years, and if it was ever wet, it was wet locally and briefly. See recent conflicting stories from March 10 and March 16, below.

  • April 5, 2005. Would any sane people allow their only major aquifer to be contaminated? Independent. Can this be true?

  • April 5, 2005. Another gigantic water project planned in China. ENN site

  • March 30, 2005. New giant earthquake hits Sumatra, but no tsunami.

    March 24, 2005. Canada: the major energy source for the United States. San Francisco Chronicle

  • March 24, 2005. The end for Yucca Mountain? Opinion piece. Bob Loux works for the State of Nevada, so this is not an unbiased piece. He chooses not to refer to the scientific cheating recently alleged to have occurred in the United States Geological Survey (see March 17, 2005).

  • March 17, 2005. It is possible that Government geologists faked data to make the Yucca Mountain project look good? Piece in Geotimes, May 2005

  • March 16, 2005. More evidence of geologically recent activity on the surface of Mars. Though see story from March 10, 2005. The papers are in Nature, so won't be freely available on the Web. See also stories from February 21, below.

  • March 16, 2005. Increased geological stress around Indonesia after the Sumatra quake. The paper is in Nature, so it won't be freely available on the Web.

  • March 16, 2005. Health hazards of living near Kilauea. Press release

  • March 10, 2005. No water on Mars for billions of years though there was plenty of water very early in the planet's history, for a geologically short period. The papers based on new data from the European Space Agency Mars Express orbiter are now published in Science. The lead article is also a summary: Bibring, J-P. et al. 2005. Mars surface diversity as revealed by the OMEGA/Mars Express observations. Science 307: 1576-1581. This looks as conclusive as one can get. Read also Kerr, R. A. 2005. And now, the younger, dry side of Mars is coming out. Science 307: 1025-1026. So, despite all NASA's wishful thinking, science is converging on the story I laid out in Chapter 1: not that I deserve any credit for that, because it always has been the sensible interpretation since the year the first landers arrived on Mars.

  • March 10, 2005. New interpretation of Meteor Crater. The paper is in Nature, so it won't be freely available on the Web.

  • February 25, 2005. Formaldehyde on Mars? Nature news service. If so, it points to a huge methane production. Do not bet on this one.

  • February 24, 2005. Ice ages on Mars. Nature news service. The evidence comes from (dust) banding in the northern polar ice cap, and although it involves assumptions, they are reasonable and the interpretation looks reliable.

  • February 23, 2005. Last December's tsunami now has the second largest death toll of any recorded earthquake. Press release from USGS. This also makes 2004 the second worst year ever for earthquake disasters: the worst was 450 years ago, in 1556.

  • February 23, 2005. Moderate earthquake in Iran, but large number of deaths. AP story, Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The usual story is that homes are poorly built, whether they are old or new.

  • February 21, 2005. A great flood on Mars only 5 million years ago? Just when we thought we had it figured out!

  • February 18, 2005. Field reports from the tsunami damage areas. San Francisco Chronicle

  • February 12, 2005. The "tsunami quake" was M 9.3 not M 9.0. That translates to 3 times larger! Press release

  • February 8, 2005. Anoxia all the way to the surface at the Permo-Triassic boundary. So says a paper in Science, now available on the Web. The paper is Grice, K. et al. 2005. Photic zone euxinia during the Permian-Triassic superanoxic event. Science 307, 706-709.

  • February 2, 2005. Modelling tectonic microplates with wax. Press release

  • January 23, 2005. Subsidence along a subduction shoreline before a big earthquake. Press release. The paper will eventually be oublished in GSA Bulletin. I think it's delicious that this comes from a couple of paleontologists!

  • January 23, 2005. Claim that the P-T extinction was from volcanic rather than asteroid catastrophe. University of Washington press release. I don't see much in this press release: most of the evidence Ward refers to did not come from the new study. And the paper itself is underwhelm-ing; they spend most of the time trying to justify the P-T boundary placement in the Karoo sections; and their sample of skulls is woefully inadequate to say much about rates of evolution or extinction.

  • January 21, 2005. Retrospective on the tsunami that hit Crescent City, California, in 1964. National Geographic News. Notice it's well hidden in this article that those folks had GONE TO the harbor for a party AFTER the tsunami warning was issued. I have read (can't remember where) that people actually went to the harbor specifically to watch the tsunami!!!

  • January 21, 2005. Weather report from Titan: methane rain.

  • January 18, 2005. THE TSUNAMI of December 26th, 2004. You can't have missed the relentless coverage on TV and in newspapers, so I won't post much of that. I'll concentrate on science, and on implications.
    First, the horrendous death toll. This is nowhere near the death toll in the worst geological catastrophe ever, which was likely the 16th century earthquake in North China (I'll look it up for you some other time). That was over 500,000 deaths, as far as we can tell from the records. But there is no question of the scale of this tsunami disaster, with estimates over 150,000 as I write today. That's not likely to be a final total, as cyclones (hurricanes) in this same region have killed over 250,000 people several times this century. (And killed them the same way, by a huge rise in sea level that impacted a crowded, low-lying coast line.)
    Second, warnings. People are talking about a tsunami warning system like the one that operates well in the Pacific Basin. It would be impractical right now to set one up: it would cost a great deal of money to set up a universal warning system along the coastlines of these third-world countries. Much of the current death toll is going to be in small towns and villages, where frankly, a warning system would be very difficult to maintain in the face of weather: it needs reliable power supplies or frequent changes of batteries, maintaining clean terminals, frequent testing, and so on. This is a region where people die of disease, cyclones, civil wars: tsunamis are way down on the list. We'd do the area a favor by spending money on health (especially clean water, AIDS prevention, malaria vaccine) rather than a tsunami warning system.
    Third, there is always a bright side. The tsunami has done the world a favor by wiping out many of the world's shrimp farms.
    Fourth, I suspect that the country that has suffered the greatest *relative* damage will turn out to have been the Maldives, a country that consists entirely of small, low-lying coral atolls. I have heard no news from there, except that 2/3 of the only town in the country went under water. The damage to the Maldivian population may have been dreadful, but we won't hear much because it is a small population compared with Sri Lanka.
    OK, enough. Here are some Web links. Institutions have had the time to set up more comprehensive sites with extensive links.

  • January 5, 2005. The one-year anniversary of the Bam earthquake in Iran. Christian Science Monitor. Rather sad lack of follow-through after the first relief efforts. The opium dealers are doing fine...

  • January 3, 2005. Massive flood down the Hudson Valley from glacial Lake Iroquois, and its climatic effects. Press release. The paper will appear in the February issue of Geology, so you won't see it on the Web.

  • January 3, 2005. Arguments over tectonic plumes. San Francisco Chronicle

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