Geology, News

Iceland’s volcano situation heating up again

Bardarbunga volcano. Image source.

Seismic activity is continuing at the Bárðarbunga volcano and an eruption may still take place, scientists said on Sunday, but the emergency level has been downgraded from red to orange. “There are no indications that the activity is slowing down, and therefore an eruption can not be excluded,” the Icelandic Met Office said. Over 700 earthquakes have been recorded on Sunday alone, including the strongest measured since 1996. Jay Miller, a research scientist in the  International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) agrees that the volcano could erupt at any given time. “There is a sense that it might erupt because there have been over 2,600 small earthquakes in the region recently,” Miller explains. Such…

Climate, Geology, News

‘Widespread methane leakage’ from ocean floor off US coast


A worrying report states that over 500 bubbling methane vents were found on the seafloor off the US east coast. The unexpected finding suggests that there are large volumes of the gas contained in a type of sludgy ice called methane hydrate and as global waters continue to heat up, the methane will be released in large quantities. Methane hydrate (also called methane clathrate) is a compound in which a large amount of methane is trapped within a crystal structure of water, forming a solid similar to ice. It was initially thought to exist only in the outer regions of the Solar System, where temperatures are low and water ice is common, but since…

Environmental Issues, Geology, News

California issued rights for five times the water it actually has

How bad is California's drought? Just look above. Photo: Wiki

California is facing one of its direst drought streaks, and only last year it came out of its warmest winter on record. Clearly, things aren’t looking that good and the most vulnerable resource to these conditions is at the same time the most valuable: water. Desperate times, call for desperate measures, and this means in some instances policymakers need to cut the chord. But where should regulators first stop water access given California has allocated five times more surface water than the state actually has? Ted Grantham and Joshua Viers of UC Davis  explored the state’s water-rights database only to come to this confusing and disheartening conclusion. To be more exact, water-rights allocations…

Chemistry, Geology, News

One third of fracking chemicals are of unknown toxicity

Basic fracking life cycle scheme. Image: Wikipedia Commons

A while ago I wrote about the disheartening status quo of energy today: frack now, ask questions later. In the article, I argue that there’s a disproportion between the amount of hydraulic fracturing (9 out of 10 wells in the US are fracking wells) and the number of research articles that discuss the bio impact of the practice in the long term. A new study presented by William Stringfellow of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at 248th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society seems to echo these notes. Stringfellow warns that one third of the fracking chemicals he found (remember there are many chemicals that makeup fracking fluid that are undisclosed…

Biology, Geology, News

Hallucigenia revealed: the most surreal creature from the Cambrian

Dickinsonia costata, an iconic Ediacaran organism, displays the characteristic quilted appearance of Ediacaran enigmata. Image via Wikipedia.

It looks like a painting from Salvador Dali – but Hallucigenia was very much real. Truly one of the most surreal creatures to ever walk the face of the planet, it was finally deciphered and understood (at least partially) by paleontologists, after 4 decades of study. The process discovered not only its position in the tree of life, but also its only surviving descendants. Life on Earth was pretty dull until the Cambrian explosion, but it was never dull after it. The Cambrian is the time when most of the major groups of animals first appear in the fossil record. This event is sometimes called the “Cambrian Explosion,” because of…

Environment, Geology, News

Study shows hydraulic fracking is sometimes shallow, in drinking water


Among the main arguments of hydraulic fracking proponents is the claim that fracking does nothing to threaten drinking water supply, because the process takes place much deeper. But now, a recent study conducted by Stanford researchers concludes that energy companies are fracking for oil and gas at far shallower depths than widely believed, sometimes through underground sources of drinking water. The study itself provides no evidence of groundwater contamination, it just analyzed the depths at which hydraulic fracking occurs. We’ve written quite a lot about hydraulic fracking. Here is a basic explanation on how the process works, and an article on what we don’t yet know about the effects of…

Astrophysics, Geology, News

Still hot inside the Moon? Earth gravity creating a hot layer

Credit: Image courtesy of National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

Scientists have indirectly demonstrated the existence of a hot layer surrounding the Moon’s core, through seismic and deformation studies. This layer is created by the gravity exerted by the Earth on the Moon and can provide valuable information regarding the evolution of the Earth-Moon system….

Geology, News, Physics

Chile earthquake triggered icequakes in Antarctica


Chile is one of the most seismically active countries in the world. In 2010, it was struck by a powerful 8.8 earthquake which produced temblors throughout the entire country, as well as in Peru and Argentina. But a new study concluded that its effects were felt even further, in Antarctica, where several seismic stations recorded “icequakes,” probably due to fracturing of the ice as the planet’s crust shook. It’s been documented for a while that big earthquakes can affect Antarctica’s ice sheets both directly, and through generated tsunamis. Tsunamis can propagate across very long distances, pushing and shoving big chunks of ice on the frozen continent. But seismic waves can also chip away…