Archive for the ‘Geology’ Category


The research includes an animation which explains ‘how three ancient land masses collided to form the British Isles’.

Scientists have for centuries believed that England, Wales and Scotland were created by the merger of Avalonia and Laurentia more than 400 million years ago, says EurekAlert.

However, geologists based at the University of Plymouth now believe that a third land mass – Armorica – was also involved in the process.

The findings are published in Nature Communications and follow an extensive study of mineral properties at exposed rock features across Devon and Cornwall.

They reveal a clear boundary running across the two counties, with areas north of it sharing their geological roots with the rest of England and Wales but everything south being geologically linked to France and mainland Europe.

Among other things, scientists believe the research explains the abundance of tin and tungsten in the far South West of England – metals also found in Brittany and other areas of mainland Europe, but not so evident in the rest of the UK.

The research’s lead author, Lecturer in Igneous Petrology Dr Arjan Dijkstra, said: “This is a completely new way of thinking about how Britain was formed. It has always been presumed that the border of Avalonia and Armorica was beneath what would seem to be the natural boundary of the English Channel. But our findings suggest that although there is no physical line on the surface, there is a clear geological boundary which separates Cornwall and south Devon from the rest of the UK.”

Continued here.


A new tweak to tidal theory is proposed. The research team hopes that ‘understanding continental configurations and tidal strengths will impact the development of climate models’.

Daily tides are driven primarily by Earth’s rotation and the gravitational force of the moon on oceans, says Earth magazine.

However, in a new study in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers suggest that tidal magnitudes are also influenced, on longer timescales, by the size and shape of the ocean basins, and are therefore driven by plate tectonics.

Plate tectonics gives rise to the formation of supercontinents — massive aggregations of continental lithosphere — which form and break apart in cycles that last about 400 million to 500 million years. With the breakup of the last supercontinent, Pangea, about 180 million years ago, and the projected formation of a new supercontinent, known as Aurica, in about 200 million years, Earth is currently in the middle of a supercontinent cycle.

Because the size and shape of ocean basins impact ocean circulation and tides, researchers led by Mattias Green, a physical oceanographer at Bangor University in England, hypothesized that tides may be linked to the supercontinent cycle in a so-called supertidal cycle.

Current tides, particularly those in the North Atlantic, are very large, Green’s team noted because of tidal resonance, which occurs when ocean basins and continental shelves reinforce and amplify the natural oscillation of tides as they sweep back and forth across oceans. “So the tides are larger at present because the continents are configured the way they are.”

To model Earth’s future oceanic tides, the researchers used predictions of continental configurations for the next 250 million years, through when Aurica is predicted to form. Ocean basin size was the main factor considered in the modeling, but the team also accounted for the moon’s gravitational pull on the oceans, Earth’s axial tilt, and simplified ocean bathymetries for future plate tectonic reconstructions.

Simplification of these fine details does affect the team’s modeling, notes David Waltham, a mathematical geologist at the Royal Holloway University of London, who was not involved in the study. But the simplifications used likely do not change the overall results, he adds.

Green and his colleagues reported that global tides are likely to increase over the next 50 million years “due to an enhanced tide in the North Atlantic and Pacific at 25 million years, followed by a very large Pacific tide at 50 million years.”

Continued here.

USnatgasBloomberg:

World energy ministers representing about two thirds of the global population tussled over how the world can achieve a cleaner energy future. The compromise answer: Natural gas, at least for now.

A consensus statement from G20 energy ministers meeting in Argentina cited the potential of natural gas “to expand significantly over the coming decades.” Meanwhile, the group said that nations that “opt to enhance their renewable energy strategies” should boost investment and financing within that arena.

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Arizona, USA


Amazing what can be gleaned from a 1,700 feet long rock core.
H/T Ian Wilson

Every 405,000 years, gravitational tugs from Jupiter and Venus slightly elongate Earth’s orbit, an amazingly consistent pattern that has influenced our planet’s climate for at least 215 million years and allows scientists to more precisely date geological events like the spread of dinosaurs, according to a Rutgers-led study.

The findings are published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reports ScienceDaily.

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The planet Mercury, as imaged by the MESSENGER spacecraft [Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington]


More theoretical speculations about Mercury’s origins, arising from what is now believed to be evidence of historical volcanic activity.

Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, but far from being a dull cinder of a world, it has instead turned out to be a real eye opener for geologists, says Phys.org.

Among the revelations by NASA’s MESSENGER probe, which first flew past Mercury in 2008 and orbited it between 2011 and 2015, is the discovery of a hundred or so bright red spots scattered across the globe. Now they are at last being named.

Although they appear more yellow-orange than red on the accompanying colour-enhanced images, they are the reddest features on Mercury, a planet that looks dull and grey on unenhanced images.

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Is there evidence of a cause and effect connection between geological forces and El Niño generation? A look at one theory.

The Next Grand Minimum

El Niño and La Niña weather patterns have a significant impact on California climate. This illustration shows the drought impacts.

west-with-out-water-page-54

Long-term La Niña periods have been associated with long-term droughts in the southwest lasting 200, 90 and 55 years. More specifically severe droughts from AD1021 to 1051, AD1130 to 1180, AD1240 to 1265, AD1360 to 1365.

I often wondered what was the controlling mechanism that generated long-term La Niña conditions with few La Niño conditions. Plate Climatology Theory may be one possible answer, the generation of La Niña events by undersea volcanic activity.

I found this article on Plate Climatology most interesting.

eruptive-warm-burstGeologically induced “Eruptive” warm burst that helps generate 2014-2015 El Nino.

All El Ninos originate at the same fixed “Point Source” located east of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Fixed point sources are typical of geological features, and not typical of ever moving atmospheric or ocean…

View original post 364 more words

Earth’s atmosphere [image credit: BBC]


“These results are going to require rewriting the textbooks,” according to the research program director.

Not all of the nitrogen on the planet comes from the atmosphere, according to a UC Davis study in the journal Science. Up to a quarter comes from Earth’s bedrock. 

The discovery could greatly improve climate change projections, says Eurekalert. 

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Cobalt boom turns life upside down in DR Congo

Posted: March 2, 2018 by oldbrew in Geology
Tags:

Cobalt mining in DR Congo [image credit: BBC]


If two thirds of the world’s cobalt comes from this one country, then given the projected numbers of electric vehicles – and other electronic devices – needing it in the years ahead, the question must be: is this sustainable? Recent rapid price rises suggest scarcity of supply in relation to demand. China moved in there in a big way about ten years ago.

In early 2014, according to local folklore, a man digging a septic tank or a well in his garden in Kasulo came across rocks with a distinctive grey-green sheen: cobalt.

From then on—rather like the find at Sutter’s Mill in 1848 that sparked the California Gold Rush—life for local people was never quite the same again, says Phys.org.

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What’s in a place name?


Anglo-Saxon England was unusually warm and stormy. Place names coined then could hold clues to how the weather will get wetter and wilder as the climate changes, says Sott.net. Assuming the weather does do that, of course. The author asks: “Is it a surprise that places with watery names are more prone to flooding?”

It’s blowy on the B4380 to Buildwas, writes Richard Webb in the New Scientist. A keen wind whipping across the floodplain from Shrewsbury flaps a misarranged saddle bag strap against my back wheel.

As I cross the river Severn at Atcham, and bend right down the back road past Wroxeter, a black cloud delivers the first dribbles of rain.

England’s place names are a treasure trove of hidden history – if only we could find the key.

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Goldman Sachs, the merchant bank, calls cobalt ‘the new gasoline’ but there are no signs of new wealth in the DRC, where the children haul the rocks brought up from tunnels dug by hand.

Adult miners dig up to 600ft below the surface using basic tools, without protective clothing or modern machinery. Sometimes the children are sent down into the narrow makeshift chambers where there is constant danger of collapse.

Cobalt is such a health hazard that it has a respiratory disease named after it – cobalt lung, a form of pneumonia which causes coughing and leads to permanent incapacity and even death.

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Is there a contradiction in this IB Times report? First it says volcanism causes cooling, then we’re told the resulting volcanic CO2 could have caused warming.

High concentration of mercury identified in ancient sediments suggest that large-scale episodes of volcanism coincided with the end-Triassic mass extinction around 201 million years ago.

It is likely that these huge pulses of volcanic activity led to great environmental perturbations, leading to the extinction of many species living on Earth at the time and setting the scene for the dawn of the dinosaurs.

Previous studies had already shown that volcanic activity was happening around the time of the extinction and there was some evidence for an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.

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California’s Big Sur coast – ‘considered one of the finest images’ by Wikipedia


The end of the California drought hasn’t been all good news for everyone, due partly to what may be ‘the largest mudslide in the state’s history’.

A massive landslide that went into the Pacific Ocean is the latest natural disaster to hit a California community that relies heavily on an iconic coastal highway and tourism to survive, and it adds to a record $1 billion in highway damage from one of the state’s wettest winters in decades, reports SFGate.

The weekend slide in Big Sur buried a portion of Highway 1 under a 40-foot layer of rock and dirt and changed the coastline below to include what now looks like a rounded skirt hem, Susana Cruz, a spokeswoman with the California Department of Transportation, said Tuesday.

More than 1 million tons of rock and dirt tumbled down a saturated slope in an area called Mud Creek. The slide is covering up about a one-quarter-of-a-mile (0.40-kilometer) stretch of Highway 1, and authorities have no estimate on when it might re-open. The area remains unstable.

“We haven’t been able to go up there and assess. It’s still moving,” Cruz said. “We have geologists and engineers who are going to check it out this week to see how do we pick up the pieces.”

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Credit: tylertexasonline.com


Some experts call it ‘unprecedented’. But as the Tyler Morning Telegraph reports: ‘there’s a caveat. Technically recoverable doesn’t mean profitable – yet.’

As far back as 1911, geologists predicted that significant mineral wealth lay below East Texas, in what was then called the Woodbine Stratum – a formation above the Haynesville Shale.

And Columbus Marion “Dad” Joiner proved them right in 1930, when the Daisy Bradford No. 3 well struck oil just outside Henderson in western Rusk County.

It was really just a drill stem test – they weren’t expecting to hit anything. But at 3,592 feet, Joiner tapped into what was for years thought to be the largest oil and gas reserves in the world. But no-one predicted the vastness of the energy wealth available here.

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Credit: quora.com

The energy that went into making the impact crater is thought to be equivalent to 10 billion Hiroshima A-bombs, as BBC News explains. Nowhere to run/hide/escape.

Scientists who drilled into the impact crater associated with the demise of the dinosaurs summarised their findings so far in a BBC Two documentary on Monday.

The researchers recovered rocks from under the Gulf of Mexico that were hit by an asteroid 66 million years ago. The nature of this material records the details of the event.

It is becoming clear that the 15km-wide asteroid could not have hit a worse place on Earth.

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Credit: worldatlas.com


Something new for geologists to get their teeth into.

The Falkland Islands may be home to one of the world’s largest craters, reports the IB Times. A new analysis has revealed it has many characteristics of an asteroid impact and may date back to the ‘Great Dying’ extinction event.

About 200 similar large craters have been discovered so far on Earth but there are many other examples of them on other planets including on Venus, Mercury and Mars.

The Falkland Islands structure, which is described in detail in the journal Terra Nova, has a diameter measuring approximately 250 kilometres (150 miles). If it turns out to be an impact crater, this size would make it one of Earth’s largest – comparable to the famous Chicxulub crater discovered in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico nearly four decades ago.

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Renewables’ deep-sea mining conundrum 

Posted: April 14, 2017 by oldbrew in exploration, Geology
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Deep sea mining for rare earth minerals [image credit: BBC News]


To what extent do ‘renewables’ depend on finding sources of non-renewables? Mining is involved – the raw materials have to be found and extracted from the earth.

British scientists exploring an underwater mountain in the Atlantic Ocean have discovered a treasure trove of rare minerals, reports BBC News.

Their investigation of a seamount more than 500km (300 miles) from the Canary Islands has revealed a crust of “astonishingly rich” rock. Samples brought back to the surface contain the scarce substance tellurium in concentrations 50,000 times higher than in deposits on land.

Tellurium is used in a type of advanced solar panel, so the discovery raises a difficult question about whether the push for renewable energy may encourage mining of the seabed. The rocks also contain what are called rare earth elements that are used in wind turbines and electronics.
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Damage on a farm caused by the Kekerengu fault [image credit: GNS Science]


One scientist said of the Papatea fault: “You can call it bonkers; it’s certainly a real puzzle.”

The big earthquake that struck New Zealand last year may have been the most complex ever, say scientists.

November’s Magnitude 7.8 event ruptured a near-200km-long swathe of territory, shifting parts of NZ’s South Island 5m closer to North Island, reports BBC News.

Whole blocks of ground were buckled and lifted upwards, in places by up to 8m. Subsequent investigations have found that at least 12 separate faults broke during the quake, including some that had not previously been mapped.

Writing up its findings in the journal Science, an international team says the Kaikoura event, as it has become known, should prompt a rethink about how earthquakes are expected to behave in high-risk regions such as New Zealand.
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Tropical beach

Tropical beach


Can the tropics ever get too hot for life on Earth, or not? That’s the question posed by this research. As the report notes: ‘these theories are controversial’.

New research findings show that as the world warmed millions of years ago, conditions in the tropics may have made it so hot some organisms couldn’t survive, reports Phys.org.

Longstanding theories dating to the 1980s suggest that as the rest of the earth warms, the tropical temperatures would be strictly limited, or regulated by an internal ‘thermostat.’

These theories are controversial, but the debate is of great importance because the tropics and subtropics comprise half of the earth’s surface area, greater than half of the earth’s biodiversity, as well as over half the earth’s human population.

But new geological and climate-based research indicates the tropics may have reached a temperature 56 million years ago that was, indeed, too hot for living organisms to survive in parts of the tropics.
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New Zealand may be part of a submerged continent 

Posted: February 17, 2017 by oldbrew in Geology

Credit: GSA Today / Sott.net

Credit: GSA Today / Sott.net


Maybe there will be some counter-arguments but it’s a novel idea.

Scientists say they have identified a new continent, and called it Zealandia, reports Sott.net.

In a new paper, a team of 11 geologists have proposed that a region of the Pacific Ocean east of Australia and containing New Zealand and New Caledonia, be considered a continent.

Geographically speaking, six continents are recognised: Africa, Antarctica, Australia, Eurasia, North America, and South America. Eurasia is the geographical landmass that includes Europe and Asia.

At 4.9 million square kilometres, Zealandia would be Earth’s smallest continent.
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New Zealand quake ruptured 6 faults

Posted: November 19, 2016 by oldbrew in Earthquakes, Geology

Region of most recent New Zealand earthquakes [credit: BBC]

Region of most recent New Zealand earthquakes [credit: BBC]


It seems the earthquake has reduced stress in some areas, but other parts may well have more than before. One expert said “The whole coast appears to have been uplifted”. LiveScience reporting.

The magnitude-7.8 quake that rattled New Zealand, killing at least two people and stranding thousands of people, completely transformed the underlying faults in the region. Six major faults ruptured as a result of the New Zealand quake, a new map reveals.

The Kaikoura earthquake struck the South Island of New Zealand early in the morning on Nov. 14 local time, triggering landslides, tsunamis and hundreds of aftershocks. And thousands of people were stranded when earthquake detritus dammed a river. During the quake, bystanders captured images of mysterious earthquake lights painting the sky in eerie blue and green.

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