Geology in the News, 2009

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 limit stories from 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. I'll attach a warning notice to each item which is likely to be short-lived.

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Geology in the News, 2009

  • December 31, 2009. Mayon erupts in the Philippines: small now, but may become larger.

  • December 23, 2009. Venice is flooded (again). What happened to all the money that's been spent to mitigate this problem, you ask.... Terra Daily

  • December 21, 2009. Update on the eruption of Chaiten in Chile, and the continuing plight of the town of Chaiten. A wonderful source of teaching slides! Photovolcanica

  • December 21, 2009. Mayon erupts in the Philippines: small now, but may become larger.

  • December 20, 2009. The price of gold is high, so the illegal mining activity in Peru's Amazon region is causing new and major environmental damage. BBC News

  • December 18, 2009. Friction on the Iran/Iraq border in the middle of an oil field. Not surprising, given the dysfunctional state of the two governments. Don't forget that these two countries fought a brutal bloody war about 20 years ago, with casualties on both sides in the hundreds of thousands. BBC News

  • December 17, 2009. Your tap water may meet official standards but still be unhealthy. New York Times

  • December 16, 2009. The magma chamber under Yellowstone is larger than previously thought. National Geographic News

  • December 15, 2009. The ground water in California's Central Valley is now dramatically depleted.

  • December 13, 2009. A new pipeline that will take energy from the Caspian Basin to China. This is a world-changing event. China is reaching deep into the Russian "sphere of influence" and diverting an enormous resource its way. In the process it is beginning to detach the largely Muslim southern group of former Soviet republics from Russian economic domination, and tying them into greater China. AND it will give the Caspian countries a third choice for exporting their energy: until now they had to choose between Russia to the north and Western companies to the west. AND it largely pre-empts any thought the Iranians had that they could tap into Turkmenistan's natural gas from the south. And, by the way, this event does not rate a mention on Google News today. But then the US was asleep during the Bush years as the Russians tightened their leverage on Caspian energy. BBC News

  • December 11, 2009. Geothermal project closes in California. There may have been more than geological factors at work, but I can't tell from this story New York Times

  • December 9, 2009. New details of the great flood that ended the Messinian episode when the Mediterranean was dry. The paper is in Nature, so won't be generally available on the Web.

  • December 8, 2009. Nice satellite photo of Tavurvur erupting at Rabaul, Papua New Guinea. NASA Earth Observatory

  • November 25, 2009. The future of the Dead Sea looks gloomy. Yahoo News

  • November 24, 2009. The drowning Mississippi Delta. Earth magazine

  • November 23, 2009. Almost 100 miners are killed in a Chinese coal mine explosion. Terra Daily

  • November 21, 2009. Gaza is running out of water. Actually, it's been running out of water for decades. Waste and inefficiency are major factors, too. If Hamas would spend its money on plastic pipes instead of rockets, the sewage problem could be fixed. Terra Daily

  • November 21, 2009. Small eruption at Galeras, in Colombia. Terra Daily

  • November 15, 2009. More on the massive arsenic pollution of drinking water in Bangladesh. The problem is exacerbated by man-made ponds. The paper is said to be in Nature Geoscience. Terra Daily

  • November 14, 2009. Water on the Moon. "In significant amounts", says NASA. (24 gallons, actually.) This reminds me of the publicity drive about water on Mars some years ago. (The wettest place on Mars is drier than the driest place on Earth.) Water on the Moon exists only in craters down near the South Pole. The craters are so deep that the sun never shines on the surface, so water ice can exist in very small quantities. This is NOT the basis or the place to build a Moon station that would have a water supply. There's no solar energy there, for a start. Second, any water you mine is gone forever, and is not replenished. This is another NASA fantasy, aided and abetted by the media. National Geographic News

  • November 11, 2009. New eruptions at Etna and Stromboli. Eruptions blog site

  • November 11, 2009. Mayon in the Philippines may be working up to a new eruption cycle. Eruptions blog site

  • November 9, 2009. Drilling into the Phlegraean Fields: the hot-spring area near Vesuvius. New Scientist. Thanks to Erik Klemmeti for this link.

  • November 6, 2009. Gold hits $1100 an ounce, a new record. It all depends what you think is true value. The dollar has lost 15% of its value against other currencies in recent months. This reflects the reality that the USA is running huge deficits. Some of this is caused by the recession, but don't forget the BILLIONS of dollars that are being poured down ratholes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Recession stimulus funds are paid in the US and spent in the US, but the dollars sent into Iraq and Afghanistan go out into the world as debts. What do you expect to happen to the dollar? and what do you expect to happen to the price of a commodity that is valued in dollars? CNN

  • November 5, 2009. What we perceive as large earthquakes may sometimes be long-delayed aftershocks of even larger old earthquakes. Well, it depends what you mean by "aftershock", doesn't it? BBC News

  • November 4, 2009. New section of rift opens up in Ethiopia. The paper is said to be in Earth and Planetary Sciences Letters. Terra Daily.

  • November 2, 2009. An Australian offshore oil well catches fire. Looks like incompetence piled on incompetence. BBC News

  • October 29, 2009. Eruptions on Montserrat. The Monserrat Volcano Observatory has improved its Web site since I last looked at it. There are reports on recent events (for example, description and photo of a pyroclastic flow that happened yesterday), and also a WEB CAM.

  • October 22, 2009. Mysterious uplift under the old German city of Staufen (home of the fictional Doktor Faust).

  • October 20, 2009. The geology and history of Jerusalem. None of this is new science, but it's good to have this summarized in one page! Science Daily

  • October 13, 2009. Soufriere Hills volcano, on Montserrat, is active again. NASA Earth Observatory satellite image

  • October 13, 2009. Russia, Germany, Eastern Europe, and natural gas pipelines: power politics indeed. The convoluted politics and economics of Russia's latest deal with Germany over gas supplies. New York Times. This is from the New York Times: DOWNLOAD IT NOW!

  • October 13, 2009. The mountain glaciers of Kashmir are shrinking at astonishing rates. These glaciers are reservoirs of fresh water for large areas of India and Pakistan downstream... Terra Daily

  • October 13, 2009. Collapse of centuries-old karez/qanat systems in northern Iraq have dried up water supplies for tens of thousands of people. The cause is overpumping of aquifers by modern wells and pumps. 70% of the karez systems are gone, according to a UNESCO study, and 70% of affected people have had to leave their homes. Terra Daily

  • October 7, 2009. The eruption of Chaiten (see October 1, below) built up very quickly to a dramatic explosive eruption: though it was not off the spectrum for eruptive haste. It wasn't off the spectrum for size, either compared to, say, Krakatau or Pinatubo. It turns out that Chaiten's lava was rhyolite-rich (this time around at least), even though it's a classic subduction-zone volcano in shape and situation. A new paper in Nature apparently hypes this chemical difference into a big deal (or maybe the news item/reporter does that). I'm going to take a pinch of salt and look at the paper... then maybe I'll change my rather sceptical view of this news item. National Geographic News

  • October 7, 2009. Quick summary and map of the New Madrid Seismic Zone on the Mississippi River. Geology.com site

  • October 3, 2009. Large earthquake in Sumatra: over 1000 people killed.

  • October 1, 2009. Remember the Chilean volcano Chaiten? After the first huge eruption 16 months ago, it is still erupting ash and steam, and re-building a volcanic dome.

  • September 30, 2009. Tsunami hits Samoa: over 100 people killed.

  • September 29, 2009, Huge diamond found in the Cullinan mine in South Africa, which also produced the famous Cullinan diamond a century ago, and several other giants since. Telegraph

  • September 27, 2009. Jordan plans to go ahead with a Red Sea-to-Dead Sea pipeline. This will refill the Dead Sea, generate hydroelectricity, and provide desalinated water for Jordan. Terra Daily

  • September 26, 2009. Nevada casino hits the jackpot: a geothermal well that will provide it with all its space heating and hot water. San Jose Mercury News

  • September 25, 2009. Very rapid coastal erosion on the Alaskan coast. Impressive! National Geographic video

  • September 24, 2009. Gold discovery in central England: archaeology rather than geology, but fun.

  • September 20, 2009. The world's deltas are sinking. That's really bad news, by the way! Terra Daily

  • September 19, 2009. Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and water. Turkey now agrees to more water down the Euphrates. One qonders what the price was, and whether it was financial or political. Terra Daily Previous stories:

  • September 16, 2009. The anniversary of the Beddgelert meteorite. OK, I'll forgive you for not remembering that event. But who was Gelert, and why is he famous in Welsh folklore? Surely you know that poignant story: at least, every British schoolchild of my generation knew it! If not, your homework is to look it up: and then you'll realise why the hotel in Beddgelert is called the "Prince Llewellyn". (And who was Prince Lewellyn, and can you pronouce his name correctly?) Can you even spell it correctly? The BBC can't, and even the pub can't. If you look it up in Burke's Peerage, it really is Llewellyn, which alters the pronunciation a lot! Or, if you dare, you could try to contact Sir John Michael Dillwyn-Venables-Llewellyn, 4th Baronet of Penllergaer in Llangyfelach and Ynis-y-gerwn in Cadoxton juxta Neath in the County of Glamorgan, Wales, for an authoritative opinion. BBC News Wales

  • September 14, 2009. Gaza is running out of water. As the article points out, Gaza has been over-using (and wasting) its water for decades. The reference to the recent military conflict with Israel is political, and bogus. Terra Daily

  • September 13, 2009. Water pollution in the United States. This is a horror story of the deterioration of our drinking water supply, often caused by deliberate dumping of toxic chemicals. Read it and weep: or move to New Zealand. New York Times. Download it now!

  • September 12, 2009. The Dead Sea is drying up very fast indeed. BBC News. Here is a set of images down the Jordan River: BBC News

  • September 10, 2009. Another very large offshore oil field discovered by Brazil. Terra Daily

  • September 9, 2009. Now the Iranians are diverting a river that used to flow into Iraq (see also story from September 8). Of course, it's less than 20 years ago that Saddam Hussein did his best to wreck the marshy region of southern IRAQ by diverting its water; that area has never fully recovered. Terra Daily.

  • September 8, 2009. Quick: which country is the world's largest exporter of energy, and which country is the world's largest exporter of crude oil? The answer to both is RUSSIA. How does Russia interact with OPEC? All this and more.... on the Bloomberg site

  • September 8, 2009. Yet another coal mine disaster in China. Terra Daily

  • September 2, 2009. Ten beautiful lakes (most with geological idiosyncracies). From a most unlikely source: Woman's Day

  • September 2, 2009. Powerful earthquake along the subduction zone off the south coast of Java. BBC News

  • August 28, 2009. The Drift River oil terminal. You remember that this was a disaster waiting to happen last spring: it sits in a lahar/pyroclastic flow track at the base of Mount Redoubt in Alaska. The terminal was emptied of oil, though the engineers were working in very dangerous conditions. Now that the danger has subsided temporarily, people don't know what to do, long-term. The Volcanism blog. Previous stories:

  • August 27, 2009. Anniversary of the 1883 eruption of Krakatau. Volcanism blog

  • August 27, 2009. A truly horrifying satellite image of the Aral Sea region shows that it has almost disappeared. NASA. Previous stories:

  • August 26, 2009. Satellite image of the plume from the hot vent in Halema'uma'u in Hawaii. NASA Earth Observatory

  • August 26, 2009. A new extra-solar planet is a "hot Jupiter" so close to its star that it may be engulfed in it in a million years or so. This is yet more evidence that other solar systems are often very chaotic, unstable systems: very bad situations for a long-lived stable planet that might evolve life. It is yet one more indication that our Solar System may be unusually calm. OPINION by RC: This is one more indication that Earth may indeed be not just the only place in the Universe with any evidence of life, but the only place in the universe that does have life. It's early days in our exploration of planetary systems other than our own, but evidence is pouring in, and it points in that direction. National Geographic News

  • August 26, 2009. It looks as if drilling for natural gas has polluted drinking water sources in Wyoming. Scientific American news

  • August 24, 2009. Anniversary of the eruption of Vesuvius that buried Pompeii and Herculaneum. Wired magazine

  • August 14, 2009. The lawless frontier of Kenyan gem mining. BBC News

  • August 14, 2009. Very scary news about the drawdown of aquifers all across the northern tier of the Indian subcontinent, from Pakistan to Bangladesh. Terra Daily.

  • August 11, 2009. Turkey, Iraq, and water again. Who is lying? and why? And don't forget that Syria is on the river between the to countries. Terra Daily. Previous story July 20, 2009.

  • August 5, 2009. Methane on Mars: it looks as if it is produced and destroyed very quickly. No-one knows why. It's not likely to be organic, in my view. BBC News

  • August 5, 2009. Did Earth's oceans come from comets? NO. The paper is said to be in press in Icarus. There is plenty of evidence that Earth had oceans before the great bompardment. And why the journalist bothered to quote Wickramasinghe is beyond me: his panspermia ideas were outdated long ago. National Geographic News

  • July 31, 2009. Spectacular photo gallery of Anak Krakatoa in action. Daily Mail

  • July 29, 2009. Large new sinkhole in a Texas oilfield. KCBD, Lubbock

  • July 28, 2009. The Tunguska blast of 1908 was probably caused by a comet. The paper is in Geophysical Research Letters. Sid Perkins in Science news

  • July 21, 2009. Serious concern (in some minds) about the future of the great reservoirs on the Colorado River. A paper is said to have been accepted. Terra Daily
  • July 20, 2009. Another chapter in the water conflicts between Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. Note that it's the Euphrates in question. The Euphrates flows from Turkey through Syria before it reaches Iraq, which makes it possible for Syria to interfere in Turkey-Iraq water issues. Terra Daily. Previous stories:

  • July 15, 2009. Satellite image of Anak Krakatau in eruption. NASA Earth Observatory

  • July 13, 2009. The Great (Gaspipe) Game continues. The Europeans and Turks sign a final agreement to build a non-Russian gas pipeline from Azerbaijan to Europe. BBC News . Background account of the pipeline: Wikipedia. Previous stories:

  • July 9, 2009. Earthquake in Yunnan Province, China, does a lot of damage but the casualty total seems to be very low. Terra Daily

  • July 9, 2009. A new geyser appears in a valley in Kamchatka. Eruptions blog site

  • July 1, 2009. The vent in the corner of Halemaumau crater on Kilauea suffered a collapse of at least one of its sides. The debris buried the glowing lava at the bottom of the vent, at least temporarily, though the vent is still steaming. Wait and see how this develops... Meanwhile, lava from Pu'u O'o crater is still running through lava tubes to the sea.

  • July 1, 2009. Before and after satellite images of Sarychev Peak, on Matua Island in the Kuriles. The caption understates the changes to the northern half of the island: see how many places you can find where the coastline has been extended by ash flows. NASA Earth Observatory. For previous story see June 22, including an awesome photo of the first big eruption from space.

  • June 30, 2009. The top 44 most dangerous piles of coal ash in the United States. New York Times

  • June 29, 2009. The Mississippi Delta is subsiding (and drowning) because it is not receiving enough sediment to maintain it. The paper is said to be in the new Nature Geoscience. National Geographic News

  • June 26, 2009. Drilling into an active volcanic region: you might hit lava! This is news from my very own Geology Department at UC Davis. UC Davis News

  • June 23, 2009. A new danger for tourists (and residents) around the Dead Sea: sink holes. Yahoo News

  • June 22, 2009. Continuing ash eruptions of Sarychev, in the Kurile islands.

  • June 18, 2009. Update on the Indonesian mud volcano: no change in flow.

  • June 18, 2009. Review of banded iron formations and the massive amount of oxygen they sequester. Excellent Science News article by Sid Perkins

  • June 17, 2009. Will the Maldive Islands disappear as ocean levels rise? The answer is not that simple! San Francisco Chronicle

  • June 12, 2009. German boy hit by meteorite. The boy is mending, and the meteorite is in custody. Daily Telegraph

  • June 10, 2009. Oil prices rise above $70. That means the price has doubled since the beginning of 2009. CNN

  • June 9, 2009. Diverting the Huang He (Yellow River) in 1938: the greatest act of environmental warfare ever. Number two may be Saddam Hussein's sabotage of the Kuwaiti oil fields in the First Gulf War. Feature in Earth magazine

  • June 8, 2009. Eruptions at Galeras, in Colombia. Reuters

  • June 6, 2009. It's not safe to break into an old abandoned gold mine and start digging. BBC News

  • June 5, 2009. Dramatic underwater eruptions in the Lau Basin, in the southwest Pacific. Images and movie. Discovery News

  • June 5, 2009. The geography of global gem diamond production. Geology.com

  • June 3, 2009. Earthquake damage in Honduras on May 28, 2009, seen from space. NASA Earth Observatory. For view of the regional geography, see NASA Earth Observatory

  • June 1, 2009. The Emeishan massive eruptions in southwest China at about 260 Ma, and a global extinction. The paper is in Science (in press). The university press release is rather a puff piece.

  • June 1, 2009. The geopolitics of iron ore: Australia vs. China vs. Japan. Terra Daily

  • May 24, 2009. Jobs you wouldn't want, #683: Emerald miner in Afghanistan. BBC News OnLine

  • May 22, 2009. Vog -- volcanic fog -- generated by the current eruption in Hawaii, and visible from the Space Shuttle. NASA Earth Observatory

  • May 19, 2009. A gallery of spectacular agate photographs. Geology.com site

  • May 18, 2009. Mercury pollution from Huancavelica has a long history. Huancavelica, in Peru, was the notorious mercury mine that contributed so much metal and misery as the Spanish used mercury to exploit the great silver deposits of their American empire. But a new study shows that mercury has been mined at Huancavelica for three thousand years. Before the mercury metal was needed for extracting silver, the mercury ore cinnabar was used for decoration (as vermilion)! The paper is in PNAS.

  • May 18, 2009. A M4.7 earthquake on the Newport-Inglewood Fault in the Los Angeles Basin. This fault is capable of an M7. If you are the USGS in Pasadena, what do you do? Wait and see, on balance: the evidence is not there to issue a warning and scare millions of people. Los Angeles Times

  • May 14, 2009. The Paleoproterozoic global glaciation happened because plate tectonics switched off? Probably not. The paper by Kent Condie and colleagues is in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. Kevin Burke, for one, doesn't beieve it. Discovery magazine

  • May 13, 2009. In the High Andes: glaciers and gold mining. Terra Daily

  • May 13, 2009. Record price paid for a blue diamond from South Africa. Reuters

  • May 13, 2009. Changing water levels in Lake Powell. Watch the changing levels over the past ten years: impressive drop, so say the least. NASA Earth Observatory

  • May 12, 2009. Oil is back up to $60 a barrel. BBC News OnLine

  • May 11, 2009. Ochre: a Stone Age superglue ingredient? The paper is said to be in this week's PNAS, but of course it isn't. It's in the electronic preprint papers, to be published in the future. Never mind: it's a great paper. National Geographic News

  • May 6, 2009. Undersea eruption near Guam.

  • May 3, 2009. Evidence that a tsunami may have hit New York and the Hudson Valley 2300 years ago. No mention of a publication!! BBC News OnLine

  • May 2, 2009. The first anniversary of the eruption of Chaiten.

  • April 29, 2009. China seizes the moment: it makes a large investment in energy-rich Kazakhstan. Terra Daily

  • April 28, 2009. Central Asian states bicker over water supply and water use. BBC News OnLine

  • April 28, 2009. Chaiten continues lava dome growth, with the accompanying danger of dome collapse, pyroclastic flows, and lahars.

  • April 22, 2009. The most Earth-like exoplanet yet found. That doesn't mean it IS Earth-like, and it doesn't mean it has water, and it doesn't mean it has life. "May" is one of those elastic words!!!

  • April 20, 2009. Beautiful image of the caldera of Mount Nemrut, in Turkey. NASA Earth Observatory

  • April 17, 2009. Botswana cuts its diamond production by 50%. This is a classic De Beers policy: to hold back production during economic recession, to keep the price of already sold and in-stock diamonds high. The idea is that people need to be assured that diamonds are not just a luxury, but an easily transportable safe haven for money. (De Beers owns 50% of the mining company Debswana along with the Botswana Government.) BBC News

  • April 11, 2009. Eruption in the Galapagos. AP on Google News

  • April 10, 2009. Short review of Tambora on the 194th anniversary of its cataclysmic 1815 eruption. Eruptions site

  • April 9, 2009. Mount Redoubt continues to erupt, with explosions, big ash clouds, dome building, and at least two lahars.

  • April 9, 2009. Big rockfall at Ahwiyah Point, in Yosemite National Park. Supertopo site

  • April 9, 2009. Spectacular fire-fountaining eruption at Llaima on April 4, 2009, pieced together from a Webcam, so it's at fast-forward speed. You-Tube

  • April 8, 2009. Potential gold and silver scam off the Argentine coast. Boston Globe

  • April 7, 2009. Earthquake in central Italy destroys several villages: over 200 people killed.

  • March 28, 2009. Hunga-Ha'apai erupts in Tonga. What was originally an undersea eruption has now broken through to the surface to add new land to the small island of Hunga-Ha'apai. Before-and-after pictures on the NASA Earth observatory page referenced below

  • March 25, 2009. Asteroid strikes Earth! I missed this last October, but then so did National Geographic. There's a news story and a paper in Nature this week, though they won't be available on the Web any time soon.